Tag Archives: Memories

The Internet Writes My Autobiography In Indelible Ink

Morning began with a text from someone I thought I had blocked.

“Did you just dial me by mistake?”

Eyes still sleep-logged, I thumbed through the unfamiliar basic phone I’m using in lieu of my flash smartphone (lying at the workshop for repair). Damn. He was right. I don’t remember if I had deleted him from my Contacts. Then I realise the phone had synced up his contacts from my mailbox. Stupid efficient Google. Won’t let me forget. This wouldn’t have happened on my regular phone. Bloody smartphone. Letting me down with withdrawal symptoms so bad.

I turned to my blog for comfort (it is my best friend, after all). The random post that came up was this chronicle of the Vasai wedding. Happy memories all of them. And in the post, in all the stories that lead from it, Rehab still lives. She has just not checked her Twitter account in a long time. A really long time. A common friend I met recently said,

“Rehab’s twitter account will follow ours forever.”

She’ll never get mad at me for something stupid I said or be a part of the dramatic insta-love/insta-hate games that dot the social media landscape. She’s in my universe forever. Oh My God. And just as I typed this and tabbed back to Twitter to check something, this tweet
came up.

Meher

Last week I argued with someone who complained about the frivolity of the relationships of the Facebook generation. I showed him this article (‘All my exes live in texts‘). How, I asked him, can you call this frivolous, when our emotions, our associations taint us forever? I’m MTV generation, not Facebook generation. But I guess it’s all the same digitally enhanced fake lifestyle to the ‘If-I-can’t-touch-it-it’s-not-real’ people.

A good friend who knows me perhaps a little too well, sent me this (‘The stages of missing someone you barely know‘). It’s what your style used to be, he wrote. I wanted to hate him a little for it. And the writer. I didn’t say a word but my life, my entire month of May was mapped out in that article written by a stranger.

It reminded me of people I don’t want to block but I don’t want to see the Pages they like, the places they went to and the people they friended either. Because it means they had time to do all of that but not time to meet me.

You can make some things go away by acting like they’re over already and then, like they never happened. So misery does not love company. Angst becomes real when it has an audience. Even vicariously, by its very relatability, a piece such as this, becomes your story. And you realise the telling of it has pried loose stuff caked to the floor of the dark corners of your mind and put them into a feature film. The unmanageable past is back to torment you out of the optimised bits & bytes that make up your life.

The internet writes my life in indelible ink. And in other people’s stories.

Magic In My Soul

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing the guilty random-online-surf-to-avoid-work thing, when my video chat icon began flashing with a call. I looked at the clock. It was past 3 a.m. I answered the call to find this guy at the other end, yelling,

“Tu kya soti nahin hain, kya??!”

Then he turned to his wife and said,

“See, I told you. She never sleeps!”

I laughed, he nodded sagely and she shook her head at the absurdity of it.

It occurred to me that I belong the privileged generation that has these magical experiences. The generations before ours scoff and think we’ve lost it, that we haven’t known closeness, that we don’t understand life since we spend it behind glass screens. The generations after us, having been born into a digital era, don’t see anything particularly remarkable in this.

But to me, with my single Doordarshan channel and landline telephone 80s childhood, my adolescence that proved its cool with cable TV, Khatiya songs and Indipop and my young adult self that saw the dreams of the future in chatrooms – all of this is magic. Talking to somebody in a different country, with such ease (and I can even see them!) feels like magic. Being able to see bright daylight outside the window of the person I’m speaking to, while it’s past midnight where I am – this is magic. Relationships that have vanquished time and space – how can they be anything but magic?

My online association with Devesh began in June 2008, when a common friend wrote to me asking if I’d speak to her friend who was looking for some information about my industry. I was still mostly anonymous then, visible only as Ideasmith, a blog, Twitter, Facebook and an email address. I agreed and we connected and had a chat. We followed each other on Twitter, he occasionally commented on my blog and I responded. He was a slight acquaintance that it was not unpleasant to converse with.

In August 2010, I was going through my annual Facebook Friends list pruning, when I noticed a familiar name and face. I remembered him from that chat conversation but I couldn’t place why he looked so familiar. Finally, I shook off that nagging feeling of ‘Stupid, it’s all in your head’ and I wrote to him.

“This is probably a far shot but were you ever in XYZ college, Mumbai? You look a lot like someone I knew back then and he had the same name.”

“I was for 1 year! Did we hang out? I literally just knew 2 girls then

Bingo. I was a science student but with enough teenage angst to keep me out of the classroom and in the canteen. I used to hang out at that window on the ramp and was often seen with a girl called A. And if this helps, I used to call you Dave.

Jesus! Yes! It was the 3 of us that used to hang out!!!

Now cut to February 1997. I was in my first year of college and hating every moment of B.Sc. I loved reading, music and art. Nobody around me did; they were more interested in beakers, parallax removal and calculus. I’d drift around the open space in front of the canteen, in a semi-daze that only teenagers can pull off. And I’d go in and out of surreal, intense conversations all day. One of those conversations led me to Dave. He was a friend of a friend of a friend. I don’t remember what we spoke of. I barely remember him as a stranger being introduced to me. But I clearly remember him as a close friend then.

Then summer vacation came along and we drifted back to our homes. When college begun again, I didn’t see him. I didn’t know his last name or anybody else in common. This was before everyone had an email address. And in 1997, only super duper rich kids had mobile phones (well, actually it belonged to their dads and they brought it along to show off to their friends). I never forgot Dave but I had no way of reaching him again. Somebody told me that he had shifted colleges, someone else said he had moved to Australia.

In 2010, that reply from him sent tingles down my fingers. It still does. Reconnecting with old friends over Facebook, I know everyone has one story. This is mine and it’s special to me. And since we’re part of the generation that experienced half our lives without digitalia and the other half with it, it will always feel like magic.

I wondered what he was like, 13 years later. I found out a year later when he came to India for a visit. I figured we’d have a coffee together and chat about old times for, oh about an hour? How long does one need to catch up on a 14-year old friendship that only lasted two months? We ended up yapping through coffee, another coffee and one more. I paused wondering if I should tell him I’d only thought I’d hang out for an hour and I should call home to explain why I was late. He pulled out his phone and said,

“Wanna grab dinner and talk a bit more? You know I thought we’d only talk for about an hour or so.”

We ended up talking about life and work and relationships and friendship and technology and so many other things. It wasn’t like meeting a great new person. It was exactly like meeting an old, old friend. It felt like we were teenagers in college again, a notion that was laid rudely to rest when a bunch of ‘cool’ teeny-boppers walked past us, making a lot of noise. We made fun of them and talked about how much better we had been, at being teenagers. Then we laughed and told each other that we’d gone old.

We don’t talk often. There’s a message now and then or a tweet. Occasionally he calls and hangs up. I know it means,

“Hey, I was just remembering my friend but I don’t have anything to say right now.”

Other times we talk and he tells people that he likes listening to my ringtone more than he enjoys talking to me, so he prank-calls me.

On that videochat two weeks ago, we ended up talking about the directions our lives have taken. He told me he used to enjoy reading my blog but that he doesn’t anymore. Then things only a friend should tell you! I say ‘should’ rather than ‘can’ because the internet is full of presumptuous people and trolls. But I only take it seriously when someone whose opinion matters to me, says so.  He also told me that I was wasting my life away stuck in a deadened situation. But he didn’t say it unkindly. He said it in the same breath as,

“You’ve got people who believe in you. Everybody needs a push sometime. And I’m giving you one.”

If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. And I don’t think it’s got anything to do with geography or medium.

His words made me realise that most of what I do stresses me rather than invigorates me now. Blogging, once a welcome reprieve has become a ball-and-chain around my neck. Social media, that seductive beast that once promised grand things for what I was already doing? It’s now a crass, pretentious beast full of the vultures that I thought I left behind in the corporate world. Enough now.

Last week I cleared out several social apps that I was keeping active on, ‘because I’m a social media/content professional’. I decided to stop letting my Twitter followership have anything to do with my self-esteem (so loserly, no? I know) I still love writing, even if it is not soul work. But my readers, (the real ones, not the ones like the new Twitter followers who follow me for a day and then unfollow when I don’t follow back), the people who find something about my writing resonates with them, they come here for me. Not for the snazzy template or the shareable content. They come here to connect with a human being, me. And that is what makes my world of Ideasmith, magical for me. It took a friend to point that out.

This completely unedited, messy, meandering, less than perfect post is for you, Dave. You can prank-call me now.

Lying Awake Feels Like This

Amazing, when she's asleep, she's goodness per...

Amazing, when she’s asleep, she’s goodness personified, when she’s awake, let’s just say that I have more grey hairs on my head now, than I did 3 years ago! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The middle of the night feels slightly hysteric. Since late night TV and corporate lifestyles, midnight is what 8:30 p.m. probably was to the generations before. ‘Twilight’ has been co-opted by a low-grade teen horror tale.

You’re lying awake at 4:12 in the morning. You dreamt of a guy you had a crush on 10 years ago. And he was offering to connect you to a great workplace. Then he looked at you longingly and reached for your cheek. You held your breath and also your reserve and told him he was married and a father. Happily married to a beautiful woman. You don’t know about the ‘happy’, you don’t really know him that well. But you assume that if a baby was made together, they must have been happy at some point. He looks back at you and says, “She looks just like you.” And you’re at a loss for words.

But that’s a dream. It felt so real. You’re even scrabbling around in your memory to see if you can remember the email address he mentioned. It sounded like such a great job. “Yes”, you should have said, “I’d noticed.”

And he’d say, “I wanted to ask you out then, you know.”

You’d reply, “I had a crush on you, then. But that was ten years ago. And you’re married and a father now. Happily married.”

Then the conversations loops back to the same place.

That’s what convinces you finally, that it was a dream. And the reality is that you’re lying in bed awake. Too early to get up and start the day. Late enough that if you fall asleep, you’ll sleep past the alarm and ruin yet another day.

Yesterday was lost. Lost in a bloodied clot of menstrual pain, of avoidance-by-missed calls, of the low after mid-week resolutions and sleeping. It’s gone forever, that Thursday. It was nothing remarkable but it’s gone. You console yourself saying that you’re at a place where you can afford to lose a day or two. You’ve stolen so many from your health, your peace of mind and your youth, after all. The time-keeper’s doing some book-keeping, that’s all.

So you look to your phone instead and wonder, as you have, every lull between dream-states, what you should reply. ‘He asked me out’, you text your friend but she’s asleep right now. You know she’ll tell you he’s bad news. You know he is. That’s why you asked her to remind you in such situations. But she’s asleep. Luckily, so is he. You start to type a reply to him. Then you stop. You go back and erase the draft, in case it gets sent out by mistake.

You look at the stream of endless news, ravings, rants and opinions pouring in from around the world, into your palm. You worry, worry, worry about how to get into it. You fit in by standing out here. But you’re just drowning, getting lost in the ether. The universe has a place for you, somebody told you once. Maybe this is not the right universe. It’s time, it is that time you decide. That moment that you will look back on, in the years to come, when you decided to turn left. It is time.

4:27, the clock says. Your eyes hurt now. So you click your phone shut and close your eyes.

Memories

Memories.

His,
thunder through her mind
just like his footsteps
when she was asleep.

Hers,
splash onto his eyes,
making them water.

footsteps in the sand (Livorno&Viareggio)

footsteps in the sand (Livorno&Viareggio) (Photo credit: Daniel Böswald)

A Laundered Life

I feel like my life is being scrubbed with a very hard brush and industrial-strength detergent.

It’s almost mid-way through 2010 and I’m hoping the rest of this year speeds by quickly. It really hasn’t been a good time at all. I feel like everything around me is dropping away, one by one. The job is over and the longer I stay home, the more distanced I feel from that ambitious, aggressive person I was at work. Some days I feel like all those things were done by another person. I can’t imagine standing up and talking to a crowd of people, of taking charge of a team, of coping with a death and supporting a whole group of other people. Was that really me?

I feel like people and relationships are just slipping away from me. The best friend moved to another continent. She and I are just the same and yet, she feels so far away, so disconnected.

Astra, my lovely witch, and I parted ways. I miss her often but I know I can’t go back to her. If it makes sense and if I anticipated it and I know it can’t change, why does it hurt so much?

My fascinating muse has left. I find myself thinking about him often but again, I think of our last conversation and I know I’m never going to reach out to him. You were wrong, we so didn’t get past this.

I’ve been going through dates in a crazy way. None of them have hurt at all. I decided to call it off  and when I went to meet him, the first thing he said is that we should stop dating. It didn’t even hurt my ego, let alone my heart. Nothing touches me anymore.

A distant cousin was in Mumbai this morning and he mentioned a yahoogroup I had set up ages ago of my cousins. I had forgotten about it so I went to look it up. I found a whole list of groups of people who used to matter in various ways. I set up most of those groups. I was a born social networker, long before it became a marketable skill.

Notably, I rediscovered the college group. There were lots of photographs in one, an albumful that I’d uploaded. It appalled me that I couldn’t remember the names of many of the people in those pictures.

Remember the Bihari boy from Delhi? Quiet and gentle and soft-spoken. He once told me about his family in Ranchi and his hardships, being an unpopular minority citizen. I remember he was one of the few people who actively tried to keep in touch after college and was very kind to me when he learnt about the break-up. I remember him telling me that I was sinking, cutting off the world and I should make an effort to reach out and come back to life. I still can’t place his name and it’s driving me nuts.

I remembered the one other person apart from Best Friend that I was in touch with and I called him. I asked if we could catch up tomorrow since I’d be in his part of town. I last met him a few months back, after I took my break. Our meetings have always been this way – I call him when I’m in his area or think of him. But he’s never once called. He told me he was busy but if he wasn’t travelling and if he didn’t have meetings and if he managed to finish work, he’d stop by. I don’t know why this particular time should have hit me but it did. I told him I didn’t like that I kept calling and he never called. It snowballed into a fight where he kept saying things like “I never call anybody”, “Tum log sab mujhe phone karke aise nahin bol sakte ho”. I ended up hanging up really, really angry and hurt. I deleted his number. And I feel like shit.

I just had a thought as I was typing this out. It feels like I’m facing some kind of karmic retribution for running after all the wrong people and ignoring the ones who really cared. What do I do now? How do I break out of this? And what could I have done back then? I didn’t know, I so didn’t know.

God, but it isn’t the same thing typing all this out in an email or a post. What’s the point in a long list of Facebook Friend acquaintances when the only person you really have left to talk to, is a blog?

I miss people, the real people. My people.

The Green Mile Was Not An Illusion

Seventeen was a year of much learning, all of it outside the classroom. The college library was a gruesome place, with the boys being seated on the ground floor and the girls banished to the mezzanine floor overhead. Itwas like being on a rather volatile Venus that would suddenly be attacked by giggly gossips wanting a vantage view of the latest heartthrob seated downstairs or sour-faced bookworms exerting their authority with shhhhing in the one place that they ruled.

Quite by mistake, I discovered that the little door wedged in between the reading room and the games room (open only to boys for some reason) was the lending library. The narrow entranceway opened out into a seemingly endless room that was never visible to visitors since it was fenced off by chest-high counters. But I discovered that the staff manning those counters, quite unlike the battleaxe librarian, were friendly. All one had to do was to pick out a card (indexed by author and title) and present it with one’s identity card. A whole world of free books opened up to me. I read pop psychology, textbooks of subjects that were not mine, thrillers, classics, chess bibles and P.G.Wodehouse. I may have been the only student availing of these facilities since I rarely saw anyone else there and if they did, they were usually looking up a study assignment. It was like having my own personal library, the kind I’ve always (and continue to) dreamt of having.

Once I had my latest borrowing, it would be slipped into the ubiquitious backpack that accompanied my campus life and I’d go back to being a regular irreverent, aimless teenager.

The bunch of people I hung out with that year were a motley crew, all of us misfits in some way or the other and banding together only on that one common ground. None of us were really friends, we were just the social glue that stuck the moments of real living in each others lives together for what could pass as acceptable on campus. For some, this real living was in drugs, three of them found it in music, one of them in her boyfriend and a couple in the subjects they had chosen to study. Mine of course, were books. And all of us were together to get through the moments that couldn’t be spent in what we would like to do.

I met Sam at an unearthly hour of the morning on a weekday. It was too early for the whole gang to band together and the few stray members that we were just drifted about awkwardly. We didn’t have all that much to say to each other and it wasn’t till the entire group was around that we could function as one entity. I was shuffling about, kicking a stone between my scuffed boots when I heard someone calling my name. It was one of the other gang members and he was standing with a guy I had never seen before.

This is Sam. He likes books. You like books. You guys should talk.

and with that strange introduction he left. Sam and I stared at each other for a minute before he broke the gaze and said,

Let’s get some coffee. Come with me.

The first thing I would learn about Sam was that he started every morning with two cups of pure caffeine, no sugar, no milk, boiling hot and straight down one after the other. The second thing I would realize is that the coffee acted exactly the way electricity would when fed into an appliance. He suddenly came to life. The surly face relaxed, his wide eyes looked straight at me and we got to talking.

We discovered that we both loved books with a passion that neither of us had encountered in anyone else. And that these fires burnt for very different kinds of books. But that feeling of kinship, it was like meeting a fellow human being on a trip to outer space and so what if they spoke a different language? At the end of that conversation, we parted ways promising to introduce each other to our respective book loves.

I carried my prized and much-thumbed copy of Richard Bach’s Illusions in my backpack the next day, almost sure that it would not need to be taken out. To my surprise, he was standing just where I had parted ways with him the previous day.

Coffee.

He muttered and I nodded. And after he was done, he produced a set of five slim books. They were a series, all part of one book, he explained. Then he added that they were not easily available and that he had gotten them from a cousin in the US. I held my breath as I admired the highly illustrated covers and read the blurbs. When I handed them back to him, I couldn’t believe my ears as he said,

They’re for you. Read them and then you can return them.

I felt a little easier about parting with a little piece of my heart, my Illusions, after that.

The book that he gave me was The Green Mile by Stephen King. It made shivers go up and down my spine. Many years later I would watch the film, my mind working out the finer nuances of story-telling and marveling but at the same time, those shivers still racing across my back.

I returned the books the following week, the same time that he returned Illusions. I didn’t wax eloquent and neither did he. But we had a long, involved discussion about why we loved what we did and what had worked or not for the other book. We finished half a pack of Fox’s sweets through that chat. Another thing I’d noticed in the past week, that he stopped by the shop outside college every morning and bought a pack. He’d eat just one and pass it around to whoever was around. Fox’s, always Fox’s.

It must have been a little over two months later when X (who had introduced us) gave me the news. Sam had been on partying on his birthday and was racing his car back home in the wee hours of the morning. Another car zoomed around a corner and crashed into him. There was a horrific collision and the car he was in was a wreck. He was saved only by the fact that the cops recognized him as the son of the DCP and rushed him to the hospital on time. I didn’t know his father was a cop. I didn’t know he was one of those rich kids who was allowed to drive in the wee hours. I didn’t even know anyone who had had a close brush with death.

A week later, he was back from the hospital and I went to see him. I had been warned that he was suffering slight amnesia but somehow that sounded like something that happened in Hindi movies. I sat on the sofa with my friend and made polite conversation with his mother.

Then he walked in and picked up a magazine. He seemed not to have noticed us. His mother called out to him telling him that his friends were here and then she left the room. He looked around with his characteristic restlessness and I found myself getting up and going to him. It seemed instinctive that I should lead him to the canteen for his caffeine hit.

But he looked up and focussed and it was the stare of a stranger. I stopped, unsure and then introduced myself hesitantly.

He said,

Your face…it’s familiar. But I have no idea who you are.

We looked at each other for a long minute and I realized he had no recollection of our conversations or indeed, our bond. After awhile he moved back indoors.

His mother came out and sat down and to my alarm, she began to cry.

Sometimes he remembers and calls me ‘Ma’. Then some days he says I don’t know who you are. That accident…I was so scared when he went out on his birthday. They say that bad luck…death hovers around people close to their birth days.

I comforted her the best I could, pointing out that he had had a very lucky escape and it was a good sign. What else could I say? He didn’t even know me. And I wondered, if one person stops recognizing the other, does the relationship end? What is a bond that exists only in my memory, but an illusion?

It was two months before I saw him in college again and he was rushing past in the distance. I watched him go to the gate and out. A few days later, he passed me again and didn’t even look up. I had blended into the large throng of humanity in the corridors. I didn’t exist for him anymore and neither did our conversations. We went our ways, moved into different circles and in time graduation caught up with us.

I would have liked to have watched the movie based on his favorite book, with him. But it came and went without him and I walked The Green Mile alone. I thought of him through every scene of the movie, remembering something he had said or something else I had read in the book and thought to tell him about. I hadn’t fully understood the story when I first read it but all those years later, in a movie and with the advantage of my years, I could begin to glimpse into his world and why he loved it so much. That is when I missed him the most, not being able to tell him that it suddenly clicked, that I sude

Five years later, I was leaving a restaurant, looking down at my mobile phone when I ran – quite literally – into a human wall. I mean that, when I looked up, all I could see was a broad, human chest. Then hands appeared, that grabbed my arms and an excited voice called my name. It was him. And how.

My campus fellow booklover had been scrawny to the point of starvation. I had always imagined that he was sort of my height but that may have been because he was always stooped over. And he had always given me an impression of blurriness, of thoughts and gestures happening faster than he could handle.

The young man in front of me was well-muscled and toned. There was an almost too-healthy glow to his face that went quite counter to the gaunt, caffeine-addicted expression I had known. This was a fine specimen of manhood and he was a complete stranger to me. We chatted a bit about what we were doing and exchanged phone numbers. He never called me, though.

Another three years later, I was sitting in a coffeeshop when a voice shouted my name across. In the time it took him to bound up, my friends had exchanged enough smirks and knowing glances at each other to put me on my most defensive ‘okay, everyone’s watching’ pose. After he left, they giggled and demanded to know who the hottie was, who was so excited to see me. I grinned and said,

He’s…ah, an old college friend.

What else could I say?

He’s that person but he’s not the guy I knew. It’s possible that he has never remembered our conversations and that he notices me now only as a woman, a member of the opposite sex, someone to be flirted with. I’ve never had a chance to tell him that it used to be different, it used to be so much more than that. And even if I did, what difference would it make if he never remembered it? I miss the boy I knew and sometimes I wonder if it was all just an Illusion.

But then I spot The Green Mile on the television listings or I hear someone mention it in conversation and an image of the caffeine-addicted boy-man snaps into my head. There is a definite memory of him and of me, of us and the green mile. We created that together. Right now I’m holding it alone. Someday though, if he can and does walk the length of that stretch, he’ll find me waiting at the end of The Green Mile.

Considering that it’s a story about darkness and life and death….and miracles, that’s quite appropriate, isn’t it?

Forgiveness, Actually

Yes, there’s more.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Do banished memories go to hell? I hope not, ‘cos I’ll only end up meeting them there again. Besides they deserve better, so much better than the  darkness in my mind.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

A friend who hurts you
….is the one most likely to come back and apologize
….is the one that deserves forgiveness the least.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

If intimacy is what happens when love and hate collide,
Then seperation is when they lie together in the same bed…or grave.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

I would hold onto any scrap of you that I can get,
Even if it is only a painful memory.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

I would make sure the memory of me never fades in your mind
Even if it means having to leave only a memory of me behind with you.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Love means never having to say you’re sorry.

I take that to mean, the situation of being sorry never arises. After all, what else is love but taking the other person’s happiness as one’s personal responsibility? Even if that’s impossible, so is love.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Forgiveness is admitting the humaness of the other person
And divinity in oneself.For

I think I can live with being just human.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Forgiveness is for the world at large, a fair exchange for our own peace of mind. But anyone who is special enough to love, is special enough to never be forgiven.

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