Category Archives: Nostalgia

Aren’t You Glad I’m Not Carrie?

I tell people being an only child made me a reader because there was nothing much for a kid in 80s to do. I tell them I grew up in an environment surrounded by books so it was inevitable I’d become a reader. I say being a writer is a subset of being a reader and I’m even more voracious than I’m prolific. But the truth is, like the category of this post is called, my soulmate truly is a book. Books have appeared, like guardian angels or fairy godmothers (whichever mythical being you like better) in my life at opportune times with appropriate messages. People and situations now feel like illustrations of whatever the books I’m reading are trying to teach me.

A fortnight ago, Vivek Jejuja put out a call asking for people with whom to discuss Stephen King’s Carrie. I haven’t been a fan of Stephen King for a number of reasons I’ll explain later. But I have been dying for a book conversation and I have been wanting an inroad to get to know the magnificent Vivekisms (who is already a good friend, only he didn’t know it yet). So I bought the book.

In the same week, an old school classmate called to tell me about a high school reunion. These two events are significant but only if you know what the book is about. So if you haven’t read the book and plan to, here’s your SPOILER ALERT.

I was far from being the popular kid in school. By far I mean, the exact opposite. I know a lot of people now who lament that nobody knew them in school. That’s really not the worst thing to happen to a child. The worst thing to happen to a child is other children who know you but not as someone they want to be nice to.

I am not going to lament the tortures I suffered in classrooms. I know that children have no perspective on the future or morals. I know a lot of them grew up to be pretty decent adults. And like the characters in ‘Carrie’, many of them probably didn’t even realise what was happening and if they’d thought about it, they’d be as remorseful. The big problem with bullying and harassment is that they look disproportionately different depending on which side of the fence you’re standing on.

Last year I was added to a school Whatsapp group and I had a firsthand experience of why this is a groanworthy ordeal for us digi-nerds. My phone was pinging at all hours of the day and night with 768 notifications from people from all over the world, the messages ranging from “HELLO GM! Sooo great to see everyone here!” to selfies to “Who’s here? Oh him!” I bore well with it for 2 days, setting it on mute even as it annoyed me. I am one of those people who only relaxes when all notifications have been cleared, unread emails/messages read and responded to and so on. Then one more member was added and the string of “Hi!”, “What’s up with you?”s began before he asked the inevitable “Who else is already here?” (honestly, can 37 year olds not figure out how to go to the Members list on a Whatapp group?). I groaned at the slew of repeat introductions, repeat-repeats and interruptions that would follow. Someone said “Ramya’s here too.” To which he responded,

“What? Buck-teeth Ramya?”

I stayed on the group another hour, long enough to read people’s sniggers, someone else say, “Dude, she’s here and can read your message” and his “haha, just kidding” followed by awkward silence on a group that had been pinging nonstop for 2 days. I shouldn’t have wasted even that hour before I took myself off the group.

I have learnt that people have zero empathy. I have learnt that people like to play ‘My woes are worse than yours’ which is the death of that thing called empathy. And I can tell that that boy (if I think of him as a man, it will make thinking about the human race too sad) doesn’t even think he did anything wrong. Who is laughing at a joke about somebody’s bad teeth? Everybody. Because this is not about bad teeth, body shaming or any of those things. It’s about getting used to treating people one way and logic, empathy or even human fairness be damned. It’s about robbing a person of who they want to be and forcing them into an unpleasant role for your own entertainment.

I’ve been troubled ever since I received the invitation to the school reunion, not wanting to seem petulant, wanting to be that ‘good sport’. But I realised as I read Carrie, that this was never going to change. People who saw me a certain way as children, are never going to see me differently. They will react badly if I try to get them to do so. High school reunions are for those who were cool in school. But if their lives continue to be so wonderful, why do need to go back to their childhood/adolescent selves? And how are they going to behave in order to fulfil that need?

chool was possibly the worst time of my life and that’s counting abusive relationships, dirty politics at work, unemployment and people I know dying. I had agency in all those cases, even if only over how I could respond. I had none in those horrible years between 3 and 16. I have no desire to relive it.

I do not have Carrie’s powers and that’s a good thing for the world. It’s time life started being things that were good for me too. So on Saturday, I chose not to go to the school reunion and spent it reading Carrie instead. Thank you, Vivek, for two new friends – you and a book. 😊

Here’s my review of the book:

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CarrieCarrie by Stephen King

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been skeptical about Stephen King for over a decade now, mostly because I read ‘Misery’ at 20 during a breakup and just when I was working to be a writer. Years later, I read ‘Dreamcatcher’ which even King fans tell me is not one of his good ones. A friend asked me to read ‘Carrie’ so I could discuss it with him, so I decided to give King novels another chance. I’m glad I did.

Much has been made about the first period experience, which triggers off the plot of this story. Stephen King does a commendable job, as a male writer, of highlighting girl/women’s trauma. Parts of it still had me thinking, “No, that’s not what a period feels like. A man obviously wrote this.”

For me, the more interesting parts were the rabid religious beliefs and the effects of toxic/abusive upbringing on a child. What set this story apart for me is that it tells of such a child who did rebel and break out of it (even if, with disastrous results).

The bullying aspect also felt realistic, not painting the bullies as bad people but just people caught up in things that they don’t think about and regret later.

And finally, there was the semi-epistolary narrative (the story switches between excerpts of news reports and actual plot). It felt like a bit too much emphasis on Carrie, the WEIRD one. But perhaps the novel wouldn’t have been as impactful without it.

I can see why Stephen King is considered one of the best popular fiction writers of out times. And I definitely intend to check out his other books now.

View all my reviews

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Remembering To Be 18 Till I Die

I am such a sucker for nostalgia that on a day when I’m learning to put the past behind me, I go and ask Reema to pull me into this dare. She picked a year and now I have to tell you the highlights of my life. Here goes my 1997.

  • I turned 18. Boasted that I was now old enough to drink, drive and get married. The first happened several years later, the second I officially got to be able to do that very year but didn’t and the third, well, most of you know my adventures with that.
  • I found myself midway through a course I HATED. Physics had been the bane of my existence since standard eight. After 12th, I’d slunk into the relative ease of B.Sc. (easier than engineering I’d thought) and picked a combo that would lead to Maths, the only science subject I could stomach. What I didn’t know is that this meant I’d have to tolerate Physics for TWO MORE YEARS! 😢
  • I found my solace in books and other classrooms. I yearned so much to study exciting subjects like psychology, sociology and literature that I would sneak into their classrooms. Even the teachers knew me. The psychology lab had ‘adopted’ me as their pet subject for the practicals they had almost every week. That’s where my references to Pavlov, Berne, Freud come from.
  • The pressure of 12th was off and final year seemed rather far away. I spent three years in the most fashionable college in the city before I got my first lipstick. I went into grunge almost immediately (yeah, Alanis was cool in the 90s). Deliberately dusty leather boots, loose fitting pyjamas, a cycle chain as a necklace, uncut long hair – this was my trademark look. I’m told I scared a lot of people (even though no cigarette, joint or booze crossed my lips and I never beat anyone up).
  • A little later, I chopped off my shoulder-length locks and went boy-short. I got mistaken for a boy several times. But I also got propositioned a lot (boys and men are such strange creatures). A very nice-looking boy from the model/dancer crowd took a fancy to me and would spend mornings pirouetting around for my benefit. Leo men have always been such a pleasure. 😀 But the only boyfriend I had was a stray dog that would hang around the college canteen. Never a dog-lover, I avoided it like the plague. But after a long weekend once, the dog looked starved and I put out some bread and milk for it. The dog refused to leave my side for the rest of the year and would follow me around EVERYWHERE. My friends christened it my ‘boyfriend’ after it chased one of my classmates through the campus for accidentally kicking my shoe. Kaalu was the sweetest boyfriend I’ve ever had.
  • I read like a maniac. There was nothing else to do for a teenager trapped in a stifling course and before the internet and smart phones. My college had a dream library (with cards etc.) and most students didn’t even know of its existence. The college peons who ran the library would let me browse unfettered and even let me borrow more books than the quota. I read about chess and astronomy and astrology and war and music and turn-of-century literature. PG Wodehouse, Ayn Rand, Eric Berne, Aldous Huxley, Jeffrey Archer all rubbed shoulders on my library card.
  • I was drowning and I didn’t know it. The universe threw me a lifesaver in the form of Ms.Suma Narayan. She stopped me in the college corridor and asked me if I’d like to write for the college magazine. If she hadn’t done that, I may never have seriously considered the idea that I could be a writer. She published me in the magazine that year, a poem called ‘Unanswered Questions’. And life was never the same again.
  • I also sang and drew a lot. Midway through the year, I fell in with a bunch of other misfits (or maybe wiser souls). They didn’t scream COOL, they liked books and they all knew music. Alanis Morisette, Kula Shaker, Guns n’ Roses, MLTR, Bryan Adams and Aqua were topping the charts at that time. (and by the way, ’18 till I die’ was sweeping across campuses and hearts). The boys would often bring a guitar along, one of them would start a song, I’d join in while sketching something weird and strange and dark in my journals. That’s the only memory that I can pin to the phrase ‘the best of times’. Now here’s some music and attitude from my 1997.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

My First Publisher

Performing at LitCon 2015, Mithibai college

Tuesday was really special. I had a chance to perform at Mithibai college’s LitCon festival. The alma mater makes everything a magical experience. Even though the building has changed beyond recognition, it has echoes of my adolescent self, climbing out of windows, sneaking vada-paos into chemistry labs, reading books hidden inside journals during class. I had a complete college experience, from landmark conversations with strangers to friendships with the kind of people that I’d never have known otherwise, an experience that only enriches you.

I never did anything of note in the six years. But when I was in my second year, groaning and hating every bit of it, something happened. In typical teenage carelessness, I had neglected to thoroughly research my choices. B.Sc. in Mumbai university required students to pick a combination of three subjects in first year, two from those in second year and then one from that in third year (which would be the major). The only science subject I could tolerate was mathematics and that was available in only two combinations. Both combinations had physics, a subject that I loathed even more than I liked mathematics. These two combinations were PCM (Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics) and PMS (Physics, Mathematics, Statistics). I didn’t feel like applying my brain enough to understanding why Mathematics and Statistics were different so I picked PCM. It wasn’t till the start of second year that I discovered I couldn’t drop Physics, as I had intended. Apparently the only second year combinations available to me were PM and PC. If I had taken PMS, I could have opted for MS but my harebrained choice had pushed me into having Physics for one extra year.

I coasted through the entire year, feeling bleak and utterly defeated. Physics laboratory really was the worst because I couldn’t bunk it the way I could bunk class. And my poor work was even more glaringly obvious there than in the crowded classroom. I found refuge in my rough journal.

The rough journal was a college given volume, bigger than the typical school notebook and smaller than registers. It was hardbound and made of thick, good quality paper. The icing on the cake was that every page was ruled on one side and plain on the other. Even in those days, I had an eye for good stationery. It enticed me so much, I’d spend the dreaded laboratory hours doodling and falling back into a habit I had thought I’d drummed out of my system since it was deemed useless for my future — writing. I wrote about what I felt, I unentangled the things I saw around me that I had nobody to talk to about and I poured the alternate life I could only dream of, into words in that rough journal.

At the end of every lab session, we were supposed to take our books to the teacher and have her sign off on our work. I’d finish my writing just in time to hear the bell go, frantically copy someone else’s readings and get it signed by the teacher.

One day a lady stopped me in the corridor. I knew her only as an English teacher. I had never been in her class but she was friends with my Physics teacher and I had seen her visit the laboratory several times.

“Did you know there is a college magazine?” she began without preamble. And then she asked me if I’d like to write for it.

I gaped. No one had ever asked me that before. I was a science student, after all. My brain was supposed to be filled with formulae and equations, not stories and words. And there was a sizable Literature fraternity for such activities. Why would anyone even care about what I wrote?

“Can you show me something you’ve written?” she asked, her eyes keenly searching mine.

I gulped guiltily, thinking of the nonsense I spent my laboratory time on, instead of the experiments I was supposed to be doing. Then I told her, I’d bring her something to see.

The next day, I carried my poetry book. This was a journal I had been maintaining since I was 7 and first toyed around with words on paper. I’d painstakingly copy whatever ‘poem’ I had written during recess or whenever, in my best handwriting into it. It was covered with a shiny red sheet of wrapping paper with silver stars on it. Once, I had thought it was marvelous and wanted to use it only for this book. When I became a teenager, it started to look pathetic and silly so I put it away and stopped writing. I hadn’t touched the book in years.

“Can I go through it and give it back to you at the end of the day?” she asked.

I paused, a part of me reluctant to even show her that poor little book. But then, I decided, it was time to let it die out. Writing got me into trouble, gave me all kinds of dreams that made reality seem unbearable. I really ought to be studying and concentrating on my lab work. It was time to let that red register go.

“Take it,” I told her, “You can keep it.”

She looked very, very surprised as she took the book.

“I’ll give it back to you on the weekend,” she promised.

I didn’t think any more of it. The whole incident seemed so surreal.

But on Monday, she came looking for me. I was surprised that she even knew my classroom. Remember the science stream had over a dozen subjects and each classroom had at least 70 students. And that was just the science degree students, not counting the other streams and the junior college kids. But in that buzzing, bustling crowd of a college, she found me.

“I spent all weekend reading it,” she said, “It was lovely. I could see the journey of a little girl growing up to be a young woman. And I got this for you.”

And she gave me a book. It was Antonie St.Exupery’s ‘The Little Prince’ and it was inscribed, “Hold fast to dreams, for when dreams die, life like a broken winged bird, cannot fly”.

I still remember the scene as clearly as if it happened just a day ago and not 17 years in my past. This teacher who didn’t know me, had never taught me, standing there in a cream coloured saree and curly hair all around her face. She was holding out my red register of poems but she was holding it between both her hands with a kind of respect, a gesture I had never seen anyone accord to something I had written. Many, many years later, Manisha Lakhe would tell me,

“Treat your notebooks with respect and regard. They are the tools of your trade.”

And I would think back to this moment, to this teacher who showed me how I should treat my writing.

One of my poems was published in the college magazine that year, a non-rhyming list piece titled ‘Unanswered Questions’. The next year another poem ran with my name too.

Four years later, as a postgraduate student in another college, I would help revive a dead college magazine, be a member of its editorial committee, propose and run a new column. And a year after I finished my education, I would set up a blog that went on to change my career, my identity and my life. But it all started with one red register covered in childish handwriting. And one teacher who believed in a dream that I didn’t even know I had. She was my first publisher, the first person to call me a writer.

All these years later, I had a chance to share that story on stage. There were dozens of students in the auditorium, smarter, more aware and mature than I remember myself being. And in the midst of all of them, was the head of the department, Mrs.Suma Narayana, the lady who first asked me if I’d like to write.

I had a chance to perform three of my favorite pieces — The Dating Thing, Flamingos and Paper Plane. Thank you, Isha, for giving me a chance to bring my words back here.

#DIYCreativeClub: Throwback

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This is for CassyFry’s #DIYCreativeClub challenge. Today’s prompt was ‘Throwback’.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

A Playlist Of My Spoken Word Performances As A Feature At The Hive

A new milestone. The Hive asked me to be one of their feature poets at their Open Mic yesterday. I find this immensely gratifying since I only really started thinking about performance poetry/spoken word seriously in January this year.

I knew I would have enough material to cover the 10 minute slot they allocated to me. But I wanted to make sure there was enough variety to keep the listeners entertained and engaged. I’ve been exploring the medium and I’ve tried to not get too repetitive. Also, unlike with writing, I haven’t had or haven’t given myself the luxury of multiple versions of the same trick.

Here are my performances. I started (without preamble, as I’ve been training myself to do) with SUPERWOMAN, which is a ten year work-in-progress, starting with this blogpost.

From there, I moved to a brand new piece that I’ve been working on for a couple of months now. Spoken word is a mutable art form and how I feel about this idea has changed considerably in these months. I initially conceptualised it as a tale of regret, of a vital choice which I made every day and the rue I felt over not once trying the other side. Over time, it has moved from being a metaphor of my life to a picture of the city that defines me. I call this one FLAMINGOS.

And finally, I moved to the one classically ‘poetry/literary’ piece I wrote and performed a couple of months ago. Adi says it doesn’t sit as naturally with my style as others. But I wanted to try it anyway to see what I could do with it. I call it LOVE STORY SEASON 2 (or, in the page poetry version ‘Patchwork Relationship’).

The video moves on to my last piece as well. That’s the one I’m coming to think of as my signature piece. It was my first ever performance piece and its philosophy also gave me my newest tattoo. I give you again, PAPER PLANE.

Love Story: Season 2 — Spoken Word Performance

This is a fresh (and hopefully improved) version of the piece I performed last week. Rochelle did warn me that performance poetry shifts with every telling. I’ve also included the words below. I performed this at The Hive Open Mic yesterday.

When my heart is a radioactive wasteland I find you standing on the the brink your back to your own poisonous past We exchange a cigarette, a story or two I tell you about him, how on restless nights I write his name in silver grey swirls of nostalgia You take a long drag and hand me the cigarette

We time travel Through unexamined memories Expired emotion We have our first date in the universe of pain Nostalgia is best navigated When you’re playing tour guide

The next time, I become the girls you never said goodbye to I fill in backstories you never completed All those Happy Endings that came with no explanations You pick them out of the debris of your mind and you fit them onto my story I slash the t’s and I dot the i’s with tears until sleep blacks us both out

You try to scrub out our kisses with your toothbrush I fuel paper planes with angry emotion And since neither one works, We become prosthetic people in each other’s amputee lives We navigate the minefield of our mutual pasts Holding hands Your mistakes help blow my memories away

I think of love-hate relationships This is not as romantic as that But lust and disgust live in the same neighborhood And the street corner where they meet is where you and I park.

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*If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

G for GymRat

What I learnt from a college crush

I thought about this when I hit the gym today for my first personal training session. Romance and magic are the fuel of life. I hope you enjoy this story as much as I enjoy reliving it in words. And I’m late on April A to Z Challenge but I’ll make it up.

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I first remember gymming becoming a thing in the 90s. Maybe that’s when fitness fever hit India (let’s take a minute to thank Akshay Kumar, hairy glory and all). Or maybe it’s because I was newly adolescent and my generation was discovering vanity for the first time.

The year I turned 19 was also the year I dropped out of college. We have the lack of widespread internet at the time to thank for that, else I’d just have been pouring my angst and frustration into a blog. I was still on the rolls of the college but as an A.T.K.T. student (that’s actually ‘Allowed to keep term’ but we knew it better as ‘Aaj thoda, kal thoda’).

You know how everyone has a friend who is a bad influence, who is destined to go downhill? It just occurred to me that I didn’t have one; I was that friend. All the friends I can remember from that time were toppers, popular models, upcoming dancers and the like. One of them was competing in a year-long competition for the title of ‘Miss University’. Yes, that was a thing and it involved excellence in academics, sports and cultural activities. She understood priorities and balancing different people even then. I was only informed of this event sometime in February. It was time for the fashion show round, she explained. I’m not sure what association she made between me and style (I was in my grunge/goth phase then) but I was enlisted to help.

Maybe it was because of our colleges. She went to Bhavan’s, which was considered a respectable but tame college. I was a Mithibai girl, which meant I had glamour cred in the suburbs (Madhuri Dixit, Raveena Tandon, Urmila Matondker, Ekta Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi and Shahid Kapoor are some of the alumni). I didn’t care. I was the original hipster and I had decided that Mithibai filmipan was beneath me (never mind that I was going to be part of the entourage for a fashion show).

We turned up at the Bhavan’s campus early in the morning and it was awhile before the others showed up. They weren’t her friends but her choreographer and the supporting male models. One of them had longish hair and I took an instant condescencion to him. Bhavan’s himbo I decided, was no better than the Mithibai ones. The introductions were done and to my surprise, everyone was really friendly. I was used to my own college peers being a bit, shall we say bitchy, to outsiders and each other. It wasn’t cool to be openly nice.

We trooped up to the terrace for a final rehearsal. Someone switched on a battered music system and the strains of Suneeta Rao’s Paree hoon main rose in the air. The four boys positioned themselves at corners, their arms rising in unison. My friend began practising her walk in a heavy ghagara. But my attention was literally snatched by the boy in the front right corner — the long-haired himbo. Each male model had turned towards the center and had begun a strut towards my friend. When they reached her, they fell to their knees, their palms facing her in a gesture of admiration/worship. It was a classical sequence. But all I could think of was that walk, that walk, that walk. I had never consciously experienced male beauty before. And after that, I could barely keep my eyes off him.

They completed the rehearsal and began talking about costumes and makeup. I lurked in the corner, drinking in every detail of his tight black tee-shirt, fitted black jeans and ankle-high brown leather boots. When he turned, the chin-length wavy hair that had made me so derisive, moved like a lion’s mane. It was stunning. He was stunning.

At some point we got to the Mumbai University club house and made our way to the green room. We passed the Mithibai contingent and one of the girls stage-whispered, “Isn’t she from Mithibai? What’s wrong with her?” followed by high-pitched laughter. My cheeks hot, I whirled around and threw out some acidic barb that I don’t even remember. That’s pretty much all I ever had, back in college — the wits to silence the prettier people around me. Cross and bothered, I made my way to the dressing room. The Bhavan’s team had seen some of it but they didn’t comment as I settled into a corner.

Until he spoke up.

“You’re from Mithibai?”

Inside my head, I was quavering down my toes but I fixed him with a cool smile and said,

“Yes. Problem?”

Before he could say anything, one of the other boys blurted out,

“But, but..you’re so nice! I thought Mithibai people were like…”

“Like them?”

I gestured to the other contingent outside the door. He nodded and we all burst out laughing. The tension was broken but I made sure I didn’t look in his direction. Cool was such a fragile thing. I couldn’t afford to lose it.

Later, I went out to fetch something for my friend. When I returned, I literally keeled over. I had almost run into…a mountain of man beauty. There he was, bare-chested (with the aesthetic sense to be clean-shaven even in those hairy-man days), glistening with the barest sheen of body oil, wearing a white dhoti that would be his costume. I spent a full ten seconds drinking in the view hungrily. I only came out of the trance when my friend snapped a finger under my nose. SHITSHITSHIT I thought and pulled back my uber-cool reserve. I didn’t look at him or even talk to him again. But ten minutes later, she pulled me aside and said,

“He’s got a crush on you. He can’t stop talking about you when you’re not in the room!”

I glared at her and told her to go back to practising. She stuck her tongue out at me and said,

“Listen, he’s a nice guy. Don’t be mean to him, okay?”

Still, I couldn’t stop my Cool Self. I told her I didn’t even know his name. It was true. She had introduced us but I had written him off at the time and hadn’t even bothered to remember his name. She rolled her eyes and told me again, a lovely musical, romantic name that started with G. Then we went back into the room.

I settled somewhere in his vicinity and dared to look at him. He was straining with a dumbbell in his hand. Dumbbells always made me think ‘stupid people’ and I dwelt on that idea for a few seconds to reign in my raging hormones. Then I asked him,

“Gymming now?”

He nearly slid off his seat when he realised I was talking to him. Then he spoke and to my surprise he didn’t stammer or look perturbed.

“It makes the bicep muscles stand out. That’ll look good on stage.”

Ah, I nodded and with that sage conversation we went back to an awkward-pretending-to-be-companionable silence where he did bicep curls and I chewed gum and looked around the room. We both realised at the same time that everyone in the room was looking at us and grinning. He shot them a sharp look and everybody went back to their business.

We didn’t speak again till it was time for the team to go up on stage. As he passed me in the wings, I whispered,

“All the best!”

He turned and gave me a dazzling smile and I could swear he was thinking,

“This one is for you.”

They wowed the crowd with their performance and he shone. The dhotis were slightly sheer cotton and one of the other boys was wearing Jockey undies in blue-and-red, which made us all call him Superboy. But G, G was spectacular, dignity and beauty in the flesh.

When the show was over, we wandered around the building. He drifted up next to me as I was staring at a rangoli of flowers laid out at the entrance.

“Beautiful, isn’t it? I would have done it with roses instead of marigolds, though,”

He said.

“You make rangolis?”

I asked incredulously. Rangoli-making was not at the popular end of the artistic scale. Besides, it was such a Hindu girl thing, I couldn’t imagine a Muslim boy, one as magnificent as him, making a rangoli. For a few seconds I dwelt on the mental image of his large square-set hands spilling out petals into a perfect design.

We had wandered to a staircase and there we sat and spoke. We talked about art and fashion and friends and life and God. I told him I had dropped out of college but I loved books and why that didn’t seem like a contradiction to me. He nodded in acceptance and told me about gymming and how it was both health and looks.

Evening rolled around. Whenever someone passed us, he’d ward them off with,

“I’m just leaving. I’ve to go to the gym.”

Finally, we said bye and my friend and I made our way back to the suburbs. The college professor who had mentored their team was having a little get-together for them and I was invited along. G had bowed out saying he had to get to the gym. I was disappointed but there was nothing to be done about it.

My friend and I spent the train ride back talking about him and about the show. Since I was never going to see him again, I found it easier to tell her what I had felt and thought. It was a new experience for me, being interested in a guy who was so different from me, one who didn’t read, one who was a Body rather than a Mind. A guy who went to the gym!

We rung the doorbell at the professor’s house an hour and half later. And guess who answered the door? My friend turned to me, wide grin in place and said,

“Ooh, Ramya, I didn’t realise you were the GYM!”

He rolled his eyes but I grinned and walked in. We didn’t talk a lot to each other through the evening but it was comfortable sitting next to each other, laughing with the others, eating chips and cake. Nobody made any further jokes about us after that.

At around 11pm, we started looking at our watches. He stood up and stretched.

“Time to go to bed,”

one of the other boys said.

G pulled out of that wonderful stretch (I was dreaming of rolling mountains that his back reminded me of) and said,

“Nahin, I’m going to the gym.”

Our laughter carried into the night and he grinned at me. But he stood up and left and I was crestfallen. Then, my friend who had been standing near the door saying bye to everyone put her head back in and asked me,

“Hey, phone number? Okay?”

I nodded and smiled, my Cool Self be damned. I was so happy.

I never saw him again. He didn’t call. But I’ve never forgotten him. He changed how I thought about physicality, about male beauty, about attraction and about gender roles. And he was so beautiful. G. G for Gymrat.

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Follow the April 2015 AtoZ HERE.

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#SixWordStories: February 13th

Happy anniversary, lover.
Happy anniversary, liar.

roses

Friday Night Dinner with Friends

Imagine spending two hours with a stranger, thinking that he reminds you of someone. Vaguely.
Imagine talking, laughing, listening, joking, all the while wondering why it feels so familiar.
Imagine feeling like you know so little about someone you call a friend and there’s nothing more you need to know about someone you’ve just met.
Imagine being spontaneous and sparkling and thinking that you’ve done this too many times with too many people.
Imagine having dinner with Nostalgia and realizing over dessert, whose face its wearing.

It’s him. The last memory of him has him in a green shirt, just like this one. The spectacles are exactly the same, as is the square-cut face. Not an exact match since he was last seen, years ago. So this is him, is it? Older, nicer, easier to be with?

But wait, this isn’t him. It’s someone else. A perfect stranger. But my god, the resemblance! You can’t unsee it now that you’ve seen it. Present, dinner with friends merges into a frame from the past, nostalgia colouring in the details in this sketchy outline that is sitting in front of you. Him. HIM. HIM.

Odd it took so long to figure that out though. Really, really odd that someone who feels like he’s embedded deep inside, one with your cells, is so hard to recognise in the face of another. He eats a bit differently, though. He never used to like caramel custard and you don’t think he knew how to use chopsticks. The chopsticks click, the spoon clatters. And again the frame shifts. It’s not him. Someone else. Stranger. No, not a stranger. A friend of a friend. You turn to look at the person you arrived with, clinging to the present, to a notion of who you are now.

Maybe memories crumble like over-thumbed bits of paper and after awhile, all you have left is the vague recollection of something that used to occupy that place. A stray browned scrap of paper that floated off, after the original disintegrated. The memory of a memory.

You find yourself miles away from that once-so-familiar picture. That must have been someone else, a different you. That happened to someone else, someone who became the you that you are now. But that was another person it happened to. You find your hold slipping. You realise the memory doesn’t stick to your soul and prick you anymore. He? Who’s he? Who was he? Somebody that happened to someone you don’t even know anymore. You’re not a part of that story. That story doesn’t even exist in your world now, without you. It doesn’t exist because it is without you.

And here you are now,
in a world new enough to be interesting,
familiar enough to be comfortable.

And you’re having dinner with a stranger, not with your past.

* This is an older idea repolished and brought up again since it is still relevant.

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