Tuesday, November 8, 2011

For love and lovers

With you I lay on the grass watching clouds sail on, while golden afternoons turned pink. Elephant! I shrieked and pointed. You knotted your brows, pursed your lips and stared hard to let our minds fall in sync. For you to find, I hid in dirty garages, behind dumpsters, on leafy branches. With you, racing, I scraped my knees, elbows and almost all skin visible from my printed cotton frocks.

For you I cheered until my voice was hoarse. For me you brought back medals and trophies. Your sweaty shirt, plopped hair, dirty face, bloody feet and a cocky raised eyebrow. With you I realised my face was chubby and legs too thin. For you I chose what to wear and waited for the cocky raised eyebrow. With you began midnight calls, swollen eyes and mosquito bitten legs the next dawn.

You taught me to run across busy roads and jump down from moving busses. With you I sat at train doors, scattered with fruit peels, nuts and flattened rice, while our hairs tried to fly away with our scalps. We watched tiny specks of lights run past in the darkness as I made up stories about the people living in the light, and you tapped your cigarette away from condescending eyes.

From you I learned patience. For you I learned to give up pieces. With you I dreamed on and with you I believed. In the strokes of your pencil I was beautiful and I watched as your fingers moved while eyes didn’t. Don’t smile, don’t talk, don’t move, you warned. We laughed. Papers were forgotten then.

With you nights dissolved into days. With you sleep wasn’t needed. For you long walks were taken, sometimes through dark winded roads and sometimes through darker more twisted minds. With you stories were exchanged, of unknown yet familiar childhoods, of books and poetry, of love and jazz. Joints were rolled and dreams unfurled. With you guilty pleasures were unabashedly confessed.

For you I still sit waiting at night

For you I still smile and sigh

For our story, yours and mine

still lurks just beyond sight.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The pain is unbearable at times…most of the time. It feels like trying to lie on a bed of nails, every turn and I bleed all over again. It’s suffocating. Like trying to breathe while someone is pushing me under water…try too hard and water rushes in my lungs making my brain scream. Sometimes there are side effects. Hours of incessant crying, inability to get out of bed, the urge to punch everyone who’s happy, drowning in low self esteem, these all came with the package.

But, then there are the other times. Pain becomes a respite. It is the only feeling that makes me feel alive. It surpasses all dimensions. Time becomes reversible, and reality a myth. I can feel him breathe. I can hear his heart beat. I wake up in the middle of the night and the room still smells of the last cigarette we shared. I share entire conversations with him in my head. I can hear his voice, his laugh, his possessiveness. Pain is welcome then. Pain is enjoyed…relished…loved.

It seems like an era spent with him, and a lifetime lies ahead to walk alone. But am I ever really alone? On a surprisingly cloudy day…or when the auto’s cracked radio belts out long forgotten songs …or when I pull out my diary to find his writings scribbled…or when walking in a crowd, a stranger’s face suddenly looks like his… am I ever alone?

There are times when I try to induce the pain. But means are few. Forgotten pens, posed pictures, a certain ring, chocolate wrappers, cafĂ© bills that’s all I have left. We played by the rules. Amicable, cordial and mature were the words used. But the rules never stated the after effects. They never warned me that I might not need reminders. That his memories would be like Pandora’s box. You never know what to expect. It may burn you all over again…but you won’t be able to stop yourself from opening it.

I have no control anymore. The pain plays with me like waves. Pulling me in an embrace and then spitting me out onto the cold hard ground. I don’t know when it gets better…or if it ever really does. But right now, he exists only in the pain…and as long as he does, I am ready to be lost in the sea.

Friday, February 4, 2011

office office

This is a six months update on my office life for all those who’ll bother to read.

When I first walked in, after being treated like a queen at a five star hotel for a week, the first thing that hit me was that the office is purple!!…the tables, the chairs, the wall skirting et all. I too was given a tiny purple corner and no specific work...so as usual I started my favourite sport since I was six – detective me!

It didn’t take long to figure out the purple mystery…out of 45 in the research team, 40 were women! It was my worst nightmare coming true! In my whole life, the only time I went ‘Gandhian’ was when my parents wanted me to attend a girl’s college (one of Kolkata’s best). I went the theatre way…when hunger strikes didn’t work…stern ‘I can’t believe you can even think of making me do this’ gaze, big sad puppy eyes and finally the ‘it’s my life’ fiasco. Anyway, the whole point of this diversion is that – I CAN’T handle too many women! But I was trapped…nothing to do, so I decided to try and be invisible. Everyone reading this probably knows me well and can imagine how horribly I failed. For the others, here goes,

Incident 1: We had just closed a report and so were allowed to out for lunch anywhere and burn office money. Super excited me and some a little less excited others piled into a ‘way out of my dad’s budget’ car- destination DLF Emporio.

Until now, I had blended quite well into invisibility, my stock of new ‘office’ clothes were still holding and the Garihat footpath bag still looked decent. As I cat-waked in with the group, consciously tucking my tummy in and chin up… ‘

May we check your bag maam?’

‘um..sure’ (faking total nonchalance)…

So she did.

While my colleagues waited with impatient tapping of expensive footwear...out came my dirty secrets… a dirty comb with missing tooth, a half eaten 5 star, a sock (no no..not a pair), an army of age old chloromints, lost earrings and lots of loose sugar. (In my defence, I had picked sachets from the last conference… how was I to know that the lost earings would be territorial??)

Needless to say, I was invisible no more

Incident 2: I had finished lunch early (we have a strict 40 minute lunch break...1.41 strikes and say bye bye to a quarter day’s leave), so I decided to be adventurous. Our office is on the first floor of a building owned by the Archeological Survey of India and the ground floor is a pseudo-museum where they basically store the not so fancy fossils. Since nobody ever comes here, there is no security or barrier to entry. So daring little me took a trip. I gazed at the stone utensils, the dug out coins and lost myself in an era of forgotten history classes. Suddenly I realised that I would be late. I hurried out…but the door wouldn’t open! I panicked. Not only was my scanty leave balance at risk but I could very well be stuck here long enough to cook the coins in the utensils! I pressed my weight against the huge glass doors until my breath left moist patches…but it was hopeless. Just when I was about to give up, I saw my boss walk in to go up. I banged my palms against the door to attract attention (not that it was needed...imagine me, nose pressed against glass…get the picture?) So he walked up and let me out. Thank you! I said flashing the best smile I had…You’re welcome, he said…but next time, just try pulling…

As I blushed crimson, I realised I was not only visible now, but under glaring spotlight.

Incident 3: It was another conference, at another fancy five star. I was already late as it was raining so no auto was ready to go by meter, and I would rather walk 20 km than pay 20 extra. Just as I was about to get up in the auto, I tripped and broke one heel of my new cute shoes (that I had so proudly haggled and bought at half price from a man who thought it was his birth right to scan me leg up).

No problem, thought confident little me, I’ll just break the other one. So all the way I pushed and tugged and twisted, but the satanic stupid stiletto didn’t budge. I finally reached the hotel and before I could even get down, a giant man in a black suit came running to help me with a huge umbrella. ‘I can manage’ I said...’It’s my pleasure’ he boomed. So me and giant started walking up the never ending pebbled approach road. Halfway there I realised I was getting soaked, as Mr. Giant was a gentleman and kept his distance. I can run the rest, I said, and started to run. Imagine my horror when he started running after me, with the umbrella, in a perfect suit that was so well ironed that it looked plastic! ‘Madam it’s my job to help you’ said the poor giant. But I was in no mood to listen. I reached the main foyer, breathless, wet and without a heel. So what? Who’ll notice me in this huge fancy place? (I had met John Abraham in this same foyer the last time that I was here). But somehow I felt every eye on me! It was then that I realised that corporate women wear heels for a purpose. It gives a feeling of power. Click..clock..click…clock..kind of like Gabbar in the ‘kitne admi the’ scene. Kind of like dare you cross my path I’ll mash you under these. And here I was walking in a pin drop silent hall, with full attitude going..click..silence…click…silence…

My torment was day long as the entire hotel had wood panel floors to emphasize the click…clocks…afterall, it’s an unsaid rule in my new world…no click clocks meaning no power meaning no card exchange meaning no interview meaning basically you are doomed.

Now that my invisibility plan had failed, I decided to shift gear to plan B…make friends. Now this was more my forte, so I did.

I met M. She’s a hardcore Bengali, loves Rafi songs, political talks, the latest Pulitzer winner, but unfortunately was born into a full blown Punjabi family. Her family thinks she’s abnormal, as she prefers white over hot pink, or wants to read the front page before page 3, or sips cappuccino rather than lassi in huge steel tumblers and the ultimate sin..she prefers amchi Mumbai (where she worked earlier) over saddi dilli!! It’s almost like being a closet gay!

Then, there is S. Typical west Delhi. Pink polka dotted shoes with pink polka dotted bag. She lives almost and hour away from office, reaches on time (9.31 and you lose leaves) but never ever is a hair out of place, or nails not manicured, or lipstick and eyeliner unmatched!! This mystery I couldn’t yet solve. Her life’s aim is to marry someone with a black BMW and leather seats.

There’s N, who has till now never spent a night away from direct family, and R, who is from Kolkata, has been working in Delhi for two years, and makes her poor mother stay with her because she can’t cook! I remember she once told me’ Oh! You can cook! Why didn’t you get married then??’

Of course, there’s my boss, who’s the perfect example of the click clock genre and confidently says ‘I’m a single mom with two kids and a dog’. But then she recently moved to Singapore to open a new branch and we are now led by Mr. H, who is the quietest person I have ever met (he is the star of weakly attempted ‘I’m invisible’ act). He never complains, never takes leave, never says no, never speaks above a whisper, bring lunch in a yellow plastic box and curd in a water bottle. He has a golden temple desktop background. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but on days when our CEO is on leave, the background changes to a Pink Floyd cover.

I have a new strategy now…compartmentalize. I shut off my mind whenever I want, I have the acumen now to stare at a document for 30 minutes straight while all I’m thinking about is should I cook or order in tonight. I can think up a perfect header for my article while nodding compassionately at S when she cries that the pimple on her cheek makes her nose look big. I have learned to read a one page document and type 10 pages about it, I have learned to call men my dad’s age by their first names and not stammer while doing it, I have learned typical key words to use in a conversation to make it seem that you are actually understanding what the other person is saying when you really don’t have a clue. And I have learned to do million to billion, billion to crore, lakh to crore and dollar to rupee conversions so fast, that it would make my high school math teacher proud!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

For her

Her house was a magical kingdom. Quilts could be turned into caves while me and my brother became lions, even in summer afternoons. Sarees were weaved through rusted door loops, and we would swing till our bums were sore…or the saree tore. There would always be ‘mangsher jhol’ for lunch, and multicouloured pickes. She sat there patiently while I chose my favourite pieces and my brother kept asking for endless ‘alus’. In the afternoons, while she lay reading the latest issue of ‘desh’, we were allowed to make tiny ugly idols by digging out mud from very exquisite flower pots, or pluck bonsai oranges and try to make juice. When our mothers found out, and our cheeks had fingerprints...we could always run to her...hug her and say…’ ma ke boko’. She smelled of talcum powder and keo-karpin hair oil.It was our sanctuary. She was our sanctuary.

On birthdays she gave us twenty, sometimes forty shiny five rupee coins in tiny beaded pouches...we felt we could conquer the world with our treasure. As I grew older I discovered other treasures… her treasures. Old faded copies of Shakespeare, O Henry, Jane Austen and Wordsworth with her pencil scribbled notes on the margins. She sometimes read out to me…entire hardbound novels…mostly Bengali ones which she knew I would never touch otherwise. In a few years I started reading out to her on my occasional visits... my favourite passages, from my favourite books. She loved Gone with the wind.

I lived with her for a few months when I was in college, and in those months I got to know a whole new her. We chatted late into the nights. She picked out matching earrings each night for me to wear the next day. I sang old hindi songs for her and sometimes she recited poetry. I heard reminiscence about her childhood, mom’s childhood and mine. About cooking for her family since she was six while her mother nursed her next, about having just one dress and shivering in the cold when it was washed, about finishing graduation with brilliant marks and then going on to get two master degrees, about running away from home to marry a man 27 years elder, about teaching in two colleges in two shifts and raising three kinds and four sisters…about her struggles and her victories. ‘Your life-story can me made into a film’ I always said…she laughed out loud.

I left the city the next year, and the year after that she came to live with us. I met her on visits home. She sat reading in her room- any book… every book…news papers, magazines, even packets and scribbles on medicine covers. When I went and hugged her, she smiled. Her eyes glittered…she kissed my forehead, but never called out my name. She took long baths, had lunch with us asking stubbornly for very specific items and multicoloured pickles, and then went in for a bath again. She slept with a pink quilt, even in scorching summer afternoons. Sometimes we told her stories that she told us, sometimes I sang old hindi songs for her…she just smiled and stroked my hair and asked me to sing it again. She was suffering from Dymensia.

Yasterday night I flew down to see her one last time. The woman whose life I still believe can be made into a beautiful film.

Love you dida..and always will...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Love

  • I love you
  • Oh! I love your shirt!
  • I love poetry
  • I love acting
  • I love this cake
  • I love your jokes
  • hey thanks! love you
  • I love this weather
  • I love JNU
  • I love Kharagpur
  • I love Walt Disney
  • I love your smile

I fall in love too fast..and even though most don't turn out the way I would love..I love not regretting.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A letter to you

It's been a really long time since I wrote to you.I know I have always been selfish in this matter,writing to you only when I am desperate for replies.But tell me honestly is it just me who is selfish?Is just me who does things with certain expectations and gets hurt when these fall flat on the face?

You must be wondering what I am rambling about.You must be confused.But then again.. maybe not.You never are.You always know exactly what to say.. and better still,exactly what not to say.

I on the other hand, go around in circles..rather viscous ones may I add. My mind tangles up like the ball of wool the kitten just played with. I start out at a point,and then spiral down...down...down...untill the point is no longer visible. 'Chronic depression' I used to say... 'melancholy' you whispered.

The truth is that I am tired.... I am tired of creating shadows and then fighting with them.... fighting till I loose...till my body, mind, soul aches...till I fall down alone and disarmed.
You remember all this don't you? Remember how you used to laugh when I fell? How I hated you then..hated you for taking joy in my pain...hatred turned to rage and then to power...I stood up to fight the shadows again.

You knew why you laughed,didn't you?You always knew.Always.

Cry you used to say...'I am not weak' used to be my reply.I still don't cry.But now I know,you don't have to be weak to cry.You have to be strong.Brutally strong.And honest too.I am neither.I escape.
But I am tired...tired of escaping...tired of chasing the darkness...yet afraid to stop....tired of breaking the walls that I toiled so hard to build...tired of yet again stooping down..collecting the pieces and rebuilding...

I am tired.I am sleep deprived.So I write to you.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The mail arrived three days ago.Well not really a mail..more of a facebook message.Funny that a networking site that I hardly even use would surprise me this way! I knew her when times were different.When I was a foot shorter.. when she had freckles and a pony...when I believed that maybe I could iceskate! When we were both on a different continent...

Eleven years have passed since.Eleven turbulrnt years.Eleven long years.Eleven thousand changes.Eleven million things still the same...

Her mail brought back a whirlwind.. All memories of a life that seems unreal now.Running thorough knee deep snow with her to catch the tram.Tiptoeing myself to reach her height.Hot chocolate and cheese cakes.Pictures plasters with grins.. grins with teeth missing..Chrismas carols.. and me the sheep in the birth of Jesus.Then Goodbye.. promising to be friends still..Back in my country, all the memories of running to the postman to see if he had her letter.On my lucky days,dipping the envelope corner in water and saving the stamp...

But as I said eleven years is a long time.. the frequency of the postman ringing the bell went down.So did my cravings for them.Our lives were too different to be interwined..There were still times that I wrote to her,but answers didn't come.I lost her....Until three days ago.

She said she's going to visit India this summer. Again a pocket of time together on a different continent... eleven years... a different medium...yet the letter arrived..and the smile on my face is still the same.