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Tag Archives: Closure
I’ve had a rather nice September after the rough times before that. Looks like my health diagnosis was a step in the right direction. I took a break from the Open Mic scene for a month which is why there haven’t been too many poetry videos. But if you saw this post, you’ll know September brought me a bouquet of special poetry performances. That this happened right during a time I decided to take a break itself seems like a sign from the universe to me. And living through them makes me sure. I feel like I’ve finally walked through the doorway of that dark, deep dungeon I’ve been imprisoned in for years.
So, in the order in which they happened:
Gaysi‘s DirtyTalk was the one that I wrote a special piece for. I was super nervous, not helped by an unexpected Encounter, minutes before my performance. Maybe I will write about that in more detail another time. Or maybe not, it was probably the fullstop that I’ve been needing for four years. I went on to deliver the following performance and it was a great one, if I do say so myself. I really want to thank the organisers as well as the audience. You have no idea how much this performance was a turning point in my life. It was reprieve after years of struggling.
The very next afternoon was the Radiocity Free Verses feature event, where I had the pleasure to meet the vivacious Harnidh Kaur who I’ve been hearing about for ages. I enjoyed her poetry. I wasn’t feeling very well and my hands were shaking (after a long time). But again, I think that added to the flavour of my opening piece ‘A Lover of All Things Digital’. It’s nice to remember how far I’ve come from a stage-petrified girl to a feature performer.
And finally, I got to be one of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change at a ‘Women Empowerment’ themed event hosted by the US Consulate at Kitabkhana. I know a theme like that seems tailor-made for me so I brought out my old favorites ‘Superwoman’ and ‘Feminist Poetry’. I am enjoying being the fun, irreverent, fresh end of things. I don’t think I’ve been the fun side of any group that often. I wish I were also the funnier side but that’s for another blogpost. Here’s my performance from that day.
Planet Radiocity Freedom aired my recorded performance four times this month. Eventually, they’re bound to put it up in the archives and I’ll share a link then. In the meantime, they also ran a short interview with me and the photo feature from the Free Verses September event is up on the site right now.
For a lot of reasons, I feel like I was carrying around a gigantic boulder in my mind that was blocking everything. That boulder has just been set aside. I’m still raw from where it was dragged out. But I can suddenly breathe better and see more clearly. September has been about clearing the stones and letting the dust settle. I have been to hell and back. I enter October with a lot of hope and a nod to the Sandman.
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Head on your lap
One leg crossed over the other
And lying on the sofa,
I was picking at an old scab
A wound that left an ugly mark
To remind me of all that I desperately try to forget
A strangely satisfying activity, that.
And I was telling you
Of things that I should have done, and said
Vindication! Revenge! Justice! Satisfaction!
But I was really just talking to myself.
Until you broke into my reverie
And you said,
“But that wouldn’t be classy.
And you’re always classy.”
And that was all.
I particularly remember the details of a particular journey. It stands out in the multitude of other daily routes and frequent destinations that would checker the rest of my working life.
I used to take an AC bus to work each morning where I was spared of the usual Mumbai crowd. My favorite seat was the last one from the back, on the right side. Its window was not interrupted by a frame, the seat itself didn’t lend itself to additional bumpiness on account of being situated over a tyre and it was far enough from the initial seats which would get taken by the occasional non-regulars.
These were my early days of employment and all I had was a battered Walkman to keep me company. In fact on most days, I didn’t even carry a cassette, choosing to listen to the radio instead. Yes, I didn’t even have a phone with a radio on it.
Once I sat down and bought my ticket, I’d settle my handbag to a corner, arrange my Walkman on my lap, adjust the blinds just the way I wanted and close my eyes. The music and the motion lulled me into a gentle semi-slumber, of the sort that I, like most other Mumbai commuters would perfect over the next few years as a substitute to the regular sleep we missed. Exactly three stops (and 7 minutes) away from my destination, my eyes would fly open and I’d awaken fully refreshed. Just in time to switch off and pack away my Walkman, gulp down my entire waterbottle, tidy up my appearance and make my way to the door. The routine never varied.
On one particular day, I couldn’t sleep. Traffic jams and the ensuing horns blaring, even if they were much filtered by the capsule I was in, kept me awake and irritable. And then we passed one of the bus-stops on the way and my head jerked around, almost 360 degrees. At the bus-stop across the road, I caught a passing glimpse of a tall, slim girl with long hair in a ponytail, clad in a bright red top of some sort and jeans. I absorbed all of this without fully realizing why I had turned. It took me a few minutes to piece together with memory before coherence happened.
The ex- had spent much of our time together, playing mind-games and one of his early techniques was ‘My ex-girlfriend was hotter than you, thinner than you, smarter than you, better than you’. It was the most torturous routine I have ever been subjected to and its memory lingered on far beyond the death of that relationship. For every minute in that relationship and a long, painful time after that, I felt ugly, undesirable, unimportant, unintelligent and unlovable. Inadequate. I had never met her and she made me feel terrible about myself.
I struggled to make my peace with my past for a long time after. But I found I couldn’t stop obsessing over what I had heard about this girl. I even tried to get in touch with her, tried calling her just to be able to hear her voice. I wanted to hear a lisp in her speech, one mispronunciation or perhaps spot just one single mole on her face. Anything at all to let me know that she was not perfect. It haunted me for a long time.
All of these memories came flooding back. One time, when we drove past this bus-stop on his bike, he had whipped around and with a practiced solemnity declared that he thought he had seen the love of his life standing there. He refused to turn back or say anything more and after all this while, I suspect it was no more than a ploy to keep me troubled and under his control. Yet, I succumbed to every one of his ploys and tossed about in the black sea of self-loathing and worry.
The girl I had spotted fitted his description to some extent. What was she doing in Mumbai? Was she still living with her aunt as he had claimed? I sank back in my seat, the flood of unwelcome memories overwhelming me. And suddenly I just felt very tired. Very, very tired of hurting so much.
I closed my eyes in despair.
And that’s when I was suddenly conscious of the sound in my ears. The radio had been playing all along, only I had been too caught up in the moment to notice. And the words I heard as clearly as if someone was telling me gently, very gently,
When I finally opened my eyes, I realized that it could not have been the same girl. Or perhaps it was. Either way, it did not matter.
In the past two decades, I’ve had a troubled relationship with faith and God. There have been turbulent storms that have broken my belief. And then there have been islands of reprieve such as this one. I have no other name for them.
The hurting didn’t stop immediately. But at least I stopped continuing to hurt myself. I think I just needed someone – something – to let me know that it was okay to stop punishing myself. I made my peace with it at one level back then. But closure happens in stages, little by little every minute, some visible, some not so much.
Some time ago I thought of her again and made contact. She didn’t reply. And it occurred to me that if I had been in her place and received such a letter from a stranger, I would have responded out of empathy or at very least, pity. I know I would have because I already have, in another case. She didn’t and I think that makes me a better person than her. It may be very weak, it may just be rationalization but for what it’s worth it makes me feel better.
In a life starved of belief, when you’re being tossed about in confusion, you grab onto whatever you find and hold on for dear life. Sometimes even a stray line from a song will do.
I came to Bangalore over 10 years back. I was falling in love. Not with a person or even a place. I was really, completely, truly committing myself to life. I was 19. I had just weathered a tempestuous adolescence culminating in my dropping out of college. Then I licked my wounds, cleared my arrears and waited for life to begin again.
It did, in the summer of 1999. I found my first boyfriend, completed the Landmark Forum, figured out my plan for the next decade of my life and then came to Bangalore to start it all. I wasn’t just turning another page, I was starting a fresh book, Bangalore its first chapter.
It was a green, calm, young and fresh city. It seemed to mirror how my own youthful self felt, within. The IT sector was booming, retail was opening up and the peaceful little Garden City was waking up and experiencing the first flush of attention and awareness. Just like a debutant belle. Just like me. It was in every way, a perfect summer. I tried my wings for the first time in everything I could think of – work, love and other relationships. And I was soaring. Just as the country’s spotlight begin to focus on that lovely little place called Bangalore.
Bangalore and I sustained our relationship for the next couple of years, only growing with every interaction. There were the friends whose arms were wide open to me, their sweet, drawling, Southie accents telling me about the city we all loved. There was the boy, only a boy, who arrived to beat me in a debate and left minus his heart. He would bike down to Mumbai every few weekends to meet me and bring with him the whiff of cigarettes, pub stories and flowers that I always associated with Bangalore. There were the college admits, graduate and post-graduate that I confidently strode up and claimed but never used. Bangalore loved me.
The monsoon of 2003 is the time I can peg as when things started to go wrong. I had crash-landed a devastatingly poisonous relationship. My beloved Bangalore had toppled into the abyss of the dotcom crash. After college, in a bid to escape Mumbai’s unsympathetic memories and unemployable reality, I fled to Bangalore. But the city had nothing to offer me at all. Not a job, not a friendly smile, not a kind word. The bracing weather that had been my wings , my mood upswings, on my earlier trips gave me a bad cold that year. It was a sudden turnface that left me empty.
A year later, we met again, like guests at a party of a host who doesn’t know our history.I went out with my Mumbai friends, the metropack prowling the new-kid-in-the-city-business city. The best way to meet an ex- is looking fabulous, surrounded by fabulous people and wearing a cold, casual attitude. It worked. I spurned my former lover, Bangalore, enjoying it like a stranger and my only memory of that time was the incessant partying. The boy met me once and after ferrying me around one evening remarked that I was the cruelest and most wonderful woman he had ever known. So there, Bangalore. I went back with my claws sheathed.
Yet another year later, it beckoned to me in the form of a lonely Mumbai friend, asking for solace, promising companionship. I set my cynicism aside and went back with open arms. It was a mistake, a shattering defeat. I felt it like a slap on my face. If I had fallen in love with a city that was youthful and fresh, this was a date with a youth wasted in drink and other excesses. There was nothing for me in this city anymore.
If cities were people, Mumbai would be my family in every sense…the one I can’t do with or without, an inseperable part of me. Delhi would be the slimy, leery relative that I’ve always been terrified of, for reasons unmentionable. Chennai would be the stiff-necked, stern grandparent with whom there would be a connection but never an attachment. And Bangalore, Bangalore would be the love, the first wonderous love that turned traitor….on itself and on me. The love that will never be again.
Bangalore, you were mine and I, yours, for a brief, sweet spell before we passed into each other’s almost-oblivion.
Other things and places and people have happened tome. I’ve discovered Pune. And Hyderabad. And Goa. And other friends, lovers and selves.
And yet, there is nothing quite like the first love, is there?
To Bangalore, with much affection and warmth. In my memories, there will always be a fresh, bracing place for you as I remember us.