Tag Archives: relationship

A Conversational Weekend

The last time Adi was in town, I asked him,

“So what do you want to do?”

He sounded surprised, then he said,

“Errr, meet?”

“Yes, but what do you want to do?”

I persisted.

“Talk. Hang out. Chat. That’s all.”

he said.

Later we talked about this. He said that people in this city don’t seem to value conversations. It’s true. Mumbaikers are constantly chasing value for every aspect of their existence and what’s more precious than time? It beats even space. And we don’t appear to consider it a minute well-spent unless it is used to do something tangible.

People are always making plans to meet. Even leisure time is agenda-driven. Weekends are full of errands, bank work, shopping, mall-hopping, movies, dinner, lunch, brunch and the phlethora of meal-slash-events to attend to. It made me realize that I have very few actual conversations even in my chat-friendly, connection-happy life. Adi is one of the few people with whom I connect, not for work, not for a specific task, not for accompaniment on an activity, but just to talk. It’s true that we’re both writers and have reasonably flexible schedules. But we are both professionals in busy lives too.

This was a wonderful weekend in that regard. First, I spent Friday in the kind of work that gives me great pleasure – thinking collaboratively. I worked with people to understand their brands and consumer audiences. It was an intense 7-hour conversation that was absorbing, stimulating and fun.

Then Saturday arrived with a former colleague with lots of fun ideas camouflaged behind a lazy drawl. I accompanied her on a few errands. Then we sat down in a nondescript, tiny restaurant/shop and just talked. We talked about relationships, about growing up, about womanhood, about families and about how the world had changed so much from what we thought it would be like. We shared our respective anecdotes and angsty tales. We swapped funny, horrible stories about daily dramas. And we transitioned from ex-colleagues to friends.

Later, I met another old friend I hadn’t spoken to in a few months. Easy cushions, open windows and a coconut-flavored beverage make for the kind of comfortable setting that make complex conversations possible. We talked about love, about hurt, about guilt and of the ways we weave into, collide against and impact one another. We danced another tango in the sweet, almost-too-tender-to-bear relationship that this is.

Today another friend came calling, asking if I’d join her for breakfast. It was almost noon by the time we met and we ended up partaking of brunch. Brunch, I haven’t done that in a long time. So technically we were the ladies-that-brunch on a Sunday.

We lounged about, talking about work, about the Landmark programs that we’ve both been doing, about common friends. Then we refilled our plates and digested painful pasts with our ravioli. Afternoon arrived and we moved to a coffeeshop, where I brought out my pain, my past and the heaviness I didn’t even realize I carried, for an airing. She sat by and she listened. Then she gently offered answers, support, empathy. I listened, I ‘but-what-about’ed, I frowned, I smiled. She likened the state of being to a pig wallowing in its muck. I agreed. Then we got a coffee each and drained them dry.

It was getting to be a cool evening after a humid day. So we walked around, intending to go into the park nearby but the crowd drove us away. So instead, we tramped down the narrow lanes, over broken sidewalks and between double-parked cars. And we talked about belief systems, about books and about personal angst. It was 8pm when we finally said bye.

Gossip girls 2

I feel so much richer than I did on Thursday night. All I did this weekend was have conversations. Great conversations. Mind-bending conversations. Heartfelt conversations. Confusing conversations. Conversations that kept me up one night. Conversations that gave me the impetus to wake up tomorrow and look forward to the next week.

All the fun, important, engaging, must-do things in this city (or anywhere else) are no more than props, vehicles for people to connect and have conversations. But we’d rather get lost in those activities, wasting our energy, our money, our time and our health chasing to-do lists, than stopping to talk about what’s important.

How come we never remember that conversations are the currency of relationships? We need to spend and earn to keep the feeling economy moving, to keep the life business running. Talk, talk a little more. Do a little less.

Long Distance Is A Bitch

*Sigh* Ever have those days when you’re just hit by a gargantuan wave of emotion? Today, that emotion for me is missing people.

I’m really missing a certain set of people. These are the ones that I’ve had conversations with, the ones with whom conversations pick up from exactly where they left off, even if it was years ago. My life’s most fundamental truths, some of my biggest decisions and the real heart of all my stories come from my conversations with these people. Books have come out of those conversations as have ideas, inspiration, laughs and a few tears. A lot of me, a lot of growing up too.

Remember that speech that was circulated on the internet, oh, about a decade ago? ‘Tips from a speech never given’ or ‘Wear sunscreen’ as it was more popularly known after Baz Luhrmann created a song from it. There was a bit in it that went,

‘Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.’

At this very moment, not a single one of them is in the same place as me. The closest is across the country, everybody else on a different timezone even. When I get over the awesomeness of technology that lets you speak across time zones, it occurs to me that distance calling and email are like paneer substitutes for meat – inadequate. Long distance is a bitch.

I am a gigantic bowl of soppy soup right now. I know nostalgia is so, well, old. But I also think that you can never tell the people who matter to you, that they do, too many times. No such thing at all. So here for the zillionth time, drowning you in my maudlin, soppy, clingy attachment, Lakshmi, Sensorcaine, Adi, E Vestigio & P – I miss you.

P.S. – Even before I finished this post, I received a call from Ajay (based on a similar status update), which made me glow. Then he said, “So what’s wrong?”. ARRRGGGH! Can’t I just miss my friends without anything being wrong? What’s wrong, indeed! Everything is. Because you aren’t here and I miss you.

Islands Of Grief

You cannot ally with someone who does not believe in alliance.
You cannot love people who don’t think they deserve love.
You cannot live on somebody else’s island of grief.

It certainly is a solitary place, the land of tears. And there’s no following a person who has made it their permanent address.

At A Loss For Words

What do you call a couple of conversationalists who’re afraid to speak?

“Lost in translation.”

I grieve for the words we’ve lost.

Patience

How do you teach someone to love you the way you need to be loved?

I ask.

Baby steps.

He replies.

Reverb 10. 29: Chain Of Events

I was offline through the New Year weekend but I really want to complete Reverb10. So here they are in one shot.

December 29 – Defining Moment

Describe a defining moment or series of events that has affected your life this year. (Author: Kathryn Fitzmaurice)

2010 was a year of slow-moving but big changes. The first half of the year was spent drifting through darkness, muddling my way through the confusion and betrayal of old friendships gone sour. The second half unexpectedly sped up after meeting the boy. It hasn’t all been roses. We’re very different and we get along – quite literally – like a house on fire. Playing firefighter in a relationship is quite exhausting. But it also teaches you much, so very much about yourself. So at the risk of sounding really corny, repetitive and whatnot, that’s the chain of events that affected my life last year.

Reverb 10.21: Time Travel

I like this Reverb10 prompt. It reminds me of the start of a Richard Bach book I loved as a teenager – The Bridge Across Forever – where the author writes a letter to the boy he was. This is a letter to the future but I like the idea of communicating with other-time selves.

December 21 – Future Self.

Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)

(Author: Jenny Blake)

Me in five years

I’ll be thirty-six at that time. If the bloodlines are anything to go by, I’ll retain my tall, lean frame and my youthful looks. I will probably also be beset by a number of health problems that don’t make themselves visible but make life damned inconvenient. There’s things I might forget by then, and will need to be reminded of, when I’m thirty-six.

  • I was overlooked as a kid and a teenager. Self-esteem was squashed but I had dreams and friends. In my late twenties and even now, as I enter the thirties, I’ve hit babedom. It’s brought problems, not the least of which are jealousy, sex objectification, assumptions of being stupid and my feelings being taken for granted. I might be greying, widening and not very attractive, five years from now. This is to keep perspective.
  • I might (hopefully) be in a steady, committed relationship and have been for some time. The closeness will also mean loss of mystery, onset of some ennui and personality clashes. When I’m tearing my hair out in frustration or more realistically, in the moments when I wonder what I was thinking, I’d like to be able to remember. Falling in love is a magical experience and whatever its consequences may be, live without it is just not worth it.
  • I might be a failed writer with a folder full of unfinished documents. And I may have missed every boat possible to any kind of ‘success’ destination. I will probably rue some of the decisions I am currently making. I want to remember that I’m following a dream. It’s something that takes great courage (indeed, it took me three decades to muster it and even then I’m falling terribly short at most times). It’s something I must never stop being proud of, even if it never brings glory, fame or money.
  • I may be a regular aunty-next-door who manages the household and family. I may be Ms.Respectable who babysits, whose younger friends ask for career guidance or love life counselling. But I did drop out of college for a year. I did call my placement co-ordinator a pimp for insisting I accept the job at a place I’d been propositioned at, during the interview. I did turn my back on the campus and hold my ground till I got a remarkable job, last in the batch. I did win corporate accolades, regular and some remarkable. I did walk away from a respectable job to follow a dream. And I did manage to write an entire novel (even if it is just one Word document on a computer and no one reads it but me). I’ve lived a special life and I never want to forget that.

Me in the year ahead

Breathe. That’s the most important thing. The trick is to just keep breathing.

I may fail. I may hit a wave of success. Everyone I love may die. Everyone I care for, may turn on me. I may be the most popular person on the planet. None of these may happen. But I need to make sure I keep breathing.

Me a decade ago

My dear 21-year-old self,

I know you’re not going to be surprised to read this because you imagine stuff like this all the time. Yep, I’ve been receiving all the letters you’re been writing to me, all this time. Communications across time have considerably improved. I’m glad you got the letters down and decided to worry about postage later.

What’s life like, a decade later? Well, there’s plenty of stuff that’s been invented. If you had any money of your own I’d advise you to invest it…but never mind, you don’t have any money of your own. Strangely enough, you’re great at managing it when you have little and as you get older and more money comes your way, you’ll lose that talent. Don’t stop hoarding and don’t shut down that habit you have of putting away little notes and coins in hiding places to surprise yourself later. Yes, of course I know about all of those. I found those little money-gifts, remember?

You’ve sailed over many of the body image issues that your peers faced in adolescence. You’re going to hit a biggie, in oh, about two years from now. It’s going to take everything you’ve got, even your bloody intestines and turn them inside out. You’ll be robbed of everything that can possibly be robbed from you, including what little weight you do have.

Are you still reading? Good, you always had nerve. You don’t realise it yet but you do. That’s the one thing that won’t -cannot – be stolen from you. And many, many years later, a whole lot of ‘Why did that have to happen to me?’s later, you will be able to accept that knowledge of that fact was worth all that you paid for it.

You’ve already had your horoscope drawn by an enthusiastic relative and you’ve analysed yourself on various pop-culture fronts. Have fun with it. Belief is a powerful toy, like fire but you have a strange ability to be able to play with it. Ignore what everyone says about your love life. I won’t tell you more. Just ignore it and follow your heart. It is about your heart after all, why should you listen to anyone else? Believe what they say about your talents and abilities, though. It’s true and what’s more, believing the good things that people say about you will give you the confidence to make it all come true.

Did it all come true? Well, I’m still standing here, aren’t I? Do I sound happy or unhappy to you? 🙂 I’ll leave you with just one thought. It only gets better with time. The thirties are fabulous and I’m off to a good time! I’ll see you in another ten years!

-Much love,

Me, 31

Okay, that wasn’t short but it was fun! 🙂 It reminded me of another very old post, also full of time travel.

Tiny Tales: Emderatology

Close to midnight on Saturday, the coffee server on duty reported two dead people in the shop. The couple had been seated in the back booth of the cafe for over three hours, he recalled. When asked why she didn’t report it earlier, she said that she only noticed when he went over to tell them that it was closing time.

Inspector Clue-so deduced that the death must have happened a few minutes prior, when the couple was presented with the bill, since the bodies had not started ‘to steenk up the place and were probably ‘fresh’. This theory however, was dropped when the young server pointed out that both bodies were freezing cold and rigor mortis had set in. The lady, who admits to being a investigor in her sparetime (which she says is more than the time the job takes), was quoted as saying

“They were just sitting there staring at each other. For all I know, they had died ages ago but I just thought they were in love.”

Investigating experts were confounded by the abnormally red colour on the cheeks of the deceased. It was surmised that the excess rush of blood to the face caused the brain to stop functioning. Two slimy, fist-sized objects were also found fallen between the table and the wall, which were later identified as human hearts. Speaking to this publication, the coroner said,

“I must admit I was surprised to see two bodies without hearts inside them. How they came to remove their hearts I will never be able to tell. No wonder they died. Poor things.”

It wasn’t until the police began interviewing the friends of the couple that the truth emerged. The first to come under suspicion was Mr.McMohan, a close pal of the male victim, aided by the fact that his first reference to the victim was that he was staying at his place but was in the toilet at that moment. This charge was however dropped when it was revealed that the victim often used this as an alibi to explain his social activities to his family. On hearing the charge, he confessed that he himself had been in Pune all weekend (even at the time of the call) and could present an alibi but which he requested not be revealed to his family.

Following this train of thought, Inspector Clue-so next went to the best friend of the deceased lady. This was the turning point of the case (and also what salvaged the good Inspector’s career from the wreck of the first hypothesis). The best friend (name withheld on request) explained the history of the two dead people.

“I didn’t even realize that they were still in touch but it must be recent. They haven’t met since they broke up ten years ago. After all the drama is over, you really don’t want to face the person you shared your first awkward kiss with. It’s dreadfully embarrassing meeting that one particular ex-, you know.”

Wrapping up the case, Inspector Clue-so was quoted as saying,

“And ze key to ze mystery was found zere. You see, ze two people entered ze shop separately but it was very crowded. Zen ze spotted each other and thinking eet rude to do ozzerwize, decided to share a table. Zat is why our esteemed young friend behind ze counter does not remember zem coming in together. Ze got to ze table and discussed ze weather and how heeedeeous zis year’s fashion week was.”

The reporter interrupted this account to ask how he arrived at this conclusion and was rewarded with the following explanation.

“Because of zis.”

said Inspector Clue-so holding up a promotional leaflet whose copies were on all the tables of the shop. The image showed a boy and girl both wearing jeans. Both characters bore penmarks on them, depicting a different set of clothing.

“Obviously zey had good taste.”

said the Inspector with a distinct sniff.

“After zat, zey must have run out of topics. Ze young man had just broken up with his girlfriend, as was told to us by his friend in Pune. Ze young lady in turn was considering breaking up with her boyfriend. Zen zey found each other. Eet was like fate! But memories prevailed. Ze embarrassment of zere last encounter and all ze memories of the years after zat. Ze emotions must have been overwhelming. Hysteria built up inside both of zem till zey could take it no more! Both of zem blushed and blushed till zere hearts could take it no more and then zere hearts jumped out of zere mouths at the same time! And zey died of extreme embarrassment!”

As a reward for her help, the young coffee server has been deputed to be a trainee under the brilliant Inspector, starting next Monday.

————————————————————————

Note: The science of embarrassment is called emderatology.

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.

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