Trash Thought

Met an old friend day before yesterday. And we bitched about someone I’ve loathed for 4 years. Last night, the loathsome creature appeared in my dreams, begging for forgiveness.

My dreams are part-fantasy, part-primetime-trash-thought reruns.

Looking For Peace

I sat on the grass for a long time. It felt like it, as I breathed every second that passed. The grass felt comfortable under my butt and thighs. Like a carpet? No, I’m a Mumbai girl, I’m not used to carpets. The park is full of little mounds and grassy gradations and the contours of this patch of land fit comfortably under my legs. I don’t remember the last time I tasted comfort like this.

I was facing the jogging track and people walked by me, heads angled in front, not a glance here or there, focused on building up their heart rate and burning their calories. It was odd to be ignored quite like that. How have I not noticed it earlier? Maybe because I’ve been one of them. Truly, we city people miss the lovely things right before our eyes as we chase after other things.

How often I myself have pounded down this same track, my feet keeping up with my thoughts, an Ipod plugged into my ears or a phone conversation happening in parallel. I’ve been running away from things that are too much bear, rushing through conversations that must be had. And that’s exactly what I see written on all the faces that whip past me on the track today. I hope they find their peace. I really hope. It’s all around, abundant and just waiting to be experienced.

Last month I carried anger and indignation inside me, frothing like a bottle of coca-cola in the backseat of a car that’s zoomed down one of Mumbai’s roads. It rose inside me, threatening to burst forth from my lips and eyes any minute. Any damn minute right now. And I struggled to contain it, to settle it. My best friend had thrown a tantrum when I spoke up for the first time in 15yrs. Another friend had spoken up for the first time in 12yrs and burst forth with things that had little to do with the occasion. The irony of the two events happening in the same week was not lost on me. While I labeled the first one a tantrum, I called the second one an excessive and uncalled for response. I was torn between the two and my anger at the end of it was the stress I felt torn between the two diverse roles I played in these events.

Then there was the person who wanted me to work for him for free. Worst of all was his condescending attitude, an impression of ‘You’re not working so let me give you something worthwhile to do’, an air of doing me a favour by letting me do his work. I wanted to toss it all in this face and flounce out angrily but of course I didn’t. Seething, seething, seething.

Then, an ex- told me that I was just the same as ever, everlastingly full of angst. But he laughed as he said it, just as he always has. And I realized even if he were right, it didn’t matter anymore. I am just myself that’s all.

And A jauntily told me that it was a good thing to replace one’s friends. Relationships outgrew their purpose too and permanence was overrated, he said. There’s some solace to be drawn from that. Can I then let go of all the shackles that hold me back without fear? We hold the keys to our own handcuffs and we hold it with tight, fierce desperation.

It’s time to breathe. A deeeeeeeep breath. And let go.

Yesterday the temple was crowded, as it always is on Saturdays. I found a relatively empty spot and sat down to collect my thoughts. Ten minutes later, when I was walking down the road, a young man passed by and said something. I unplugged my earphones and stared back. He said,

When you were doing your puja, you looked very peaceful and serene. It felt good to see that.

And he walked away. Peace, happiness, contentment, so elusive. I think I’ll stop trying to figure out how to get them and keep them. I’ll just stay in them when they do occur.

The Bangalore Story

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.

Last year, it lured me again, false pretences in the form of him. I’m glad I didn’t go. He turned his back on me. The city he loves, already had, several years ago. I should have known.

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.

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