Tag Archives: Solitude

The Nature Of The Current

The birthday month has come and gone and I can only feel deeply grateful. It was the kindest thing to happen to me all year. I felt like myself in my own skin again. I felt home. And what else is more important to a Cancerian?

Several people who have been very important to me, are no longer a part of my life. April to June was spent reeling from the shock of realising – they do not love me anymore. Maybe they never did. Maybe it was all pretence, under the garb of diplomacy, avoidance of conflict yada yada. Maybe they loved the idea of me. Maybe they loved in a different way from how I see and define love.

But July, July was kind. July allowed me my dignity, my space and that thing unique to all Cancerians – the ability to feel so much and be completely overrun by emotion while never losing sight of who we are and what our life’s path is.

Every one of these people in some manner or the other tried to make it sound like my fault. One has been blaming everything from their relationship problems to their health issues on my ‘depression/thing’ last year. Another has abruptly (or maybe it was a long time in coming; I just didn’t see it) decided that I’m on a ‘complaint cycle’, that my references to astrology and numerology are me hiding behind crutches when I’m to blame for everyone else’s troubles. Someone else laid bare their secrets to me and then stabbed me in the back. How can a person bear to do that? I could never wilfully wound someone I’ve seen asleep. This has been the hardest thing to bear, made worse by the fact that these very same people have also been the ones to see the troubles on my horizon before I did.

On one hand, I was deeply grieved by this gaslighting. There is no other way to describe it. Gaslighting is making a person believe that their thoughts and perceptions are wrong and somehow they are to blame for the world around them. It turns out it happens in relationships other than the romantic ones too. And yet, all I can think is what horrific hell each of them must be in, for them to turn so monstrous in nature. I’ve been grappling with ‘but I never did this’. Until July made me realise that doesn’t matter. I am who I am and I deal with things, good and bad and love and mistrust the way I do. And other people do it the way they do. There is nothing more to be said in this.

“Because you are a mirror”

has been the rallying cry from more than one person clawing at me in the past few months. There must be something to this. Do I set out intending to make people feel bad about themselves in my quest for truth? No, I think not. But to love a person is to love them boundlessly, above the flaws and the nicks and cuts and sharp edges. Not to love them blindly. I cannot help but see the tiny indentations and the quirks that make a person, them. It’s what happens when you see them up and close. That is the way I love and I will not apologise for it. I guess it’s not necessarily comforting to be loved in that manner. And I must accept that, just as I want the universe to accept my loving.

I went for a dance therapy workshop hosted by a friend. July allowed me a chance to savour my loneliness instead of being crushed by it. I drift along, pretty okay on my own, without a real thinking plan but somehow, dimly, intuitively into experiences that are healing, pleasant and welcoming. I don’t know why dance, why in this way. But it was there and I could so I did. It was different, in a quiet sort of surprising way. I have dance coiled away in nooks and corners of my body, that my friend’s guidance was able to unlock in some way. And then I also have some kind of barriers, boundaries or safety valves against dance in the most surprising of places – my feet. I don’t know what that means but I’m letting that understanding drift about inside me and do as it will.

I rediscovered food. I go along blithely unaware of life’s experiences as they relate to me, the deep core fundamental ME because so much of my experiencing is about making the people I love, happy. This is not necessarily a sacrifice. To make someone I love happy, joyful or even pleased keeps me in a state of warmth. But when there isn’t someone to love, then suddenly that is replaced by a different kind of hunger which is uniquely and entirely only me. How much I crave sushi. How lustfully I imagine the warmth of liquid chocolate oozing from a warm croissant onto my tongue. How wonderfully the beef chilli from Sneha’s would fill my mouth, my throat and my entire body with the summer of Kerala. This month, I ate. Sushi on the day before my birthday with a new slight friend. Peaches and pears smothered in chaat masala. Full English breakfast as brunch with Manisha on my birthday. A pasta with very little cheese and a lot of fresh vegetables dancing on my tongue for birthday dinner with family. Hot tomato soup that is just sheer goodness. A garlic-cheese naan with chicken kolhapuri. Sausages slathered in barbeque sauce. Perfectly shaped omelettes that I learnt to make, myself. I ate.

Someone pointed out a person from my past and likened the two of us. It was insightful. I hold no grudges against that person from my past. But life has moved forward and I feel like I’m too far away and I’m swimming in some other direction now – onward and upward. I wish them well on their journey but it is not mine to move towards them right now. That’s just the way it is. The friend said that I was to some people as the people I’m trying to let go of this month are currently to me. I’ve been struggling to understand why they don’t love me anymore. Maybe it isn’t that complicated. Maybe it was just the nature of the current.

Exactly a year ago, I wrote this. I am so thankful to have writing to bring me these lessons and to remind me when I’m in the danger of forgetting.

A lesson in letting others live out their crashes. A lesson in not get hit and run over. Lessons of goodbye. Lessons in silence. Shh.

I’ve been writing, of course. Trying to fish out my truths from the seas of emotion, cradling the discarded pearls that come up, setting aside the dead shells with love and putting it up in bits and bobs I call Micropoetry or picture-poetry. There is meaning, there is truth. I’m swimming alone. July made it feel like a good thing. July made my body and my life feel like home. August is here now and I think of it as the Leo month, a sign I always approach with some shyness but trust and joy. Kindness helps you find who you are, when you’re losing your way. And when you know who you are, it helps you treat the world with grace. August, I welcome you.

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Unimpressive Me

I had dinner with two nice but very boastful people. This much is okay. I don’t grudge them their successes. And it’s always good to see people take pleasure in things that make them happy. But I felt a heavy somethingness push me into the corner (where the water-on-glass fountain thingy leaked, stained my saree palluv and left blue marks on the marble floor). When I walked out, I realised it had been just as heavy as Mumbai’s pre-monsoon mugginess that settles on skin, clothes, hair, working spirit and weighs it down.

I’m starting to feel unimpressive in most social situations these days. And this unimpressiveness seems to automatically translate to inappropriateness. I’m not allowed to underwhelm. The most interesting things I can find to say, are about people I know, who are doing impressive things. But what, they ask me, are you doing with your life? And tonight, I want to say,

What am I doing with my life? Why, living it of course.

I feel too tired, too weary, too bored, take your pick to perform. Sometimes, when the pressure is too much, I take out my past and flash it around. It’s not great and it’s fast losing value but at the moment it still passes for currency. Yet, it’s an experience that drains me. Nostalgia always does, doesn’t it? And I feel that pathetic something that oldish people must feel, trying to keep a bygone past alive.

There are the ideas that keep coming my way, pitying sometimes but then growing in intensity to eagerness. Everyone is so eager to open my eyes to something that will make my life impressive. Travel, they say, you’re a free bird, why are you stuck in the shithole of Bombay? I don’t have an answer, I truly don’t. But why should I travel? Shouldn’t that have an answer too? ‘To see the world’ is not an answer. At least it doesn’t answer any questions that I’m asking. If I’m travelling so that I can have a cool Instagram feed, a flashy resume and a handful of interesting stories over dinner, hey that’s great but it’s not answering anything. And frankly, I don’t feel upto making the effort. Getting up and getting through the day smiling is effort enough and reward enough, as far as I’m concerned.

Last week I tried out Secret, an app that I thought I might really like, given its anonymity. Within an hour I found nobody was talking about me or even saying things that I felt a part of. I wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or disappointed. And it struck me. The girls, those unnamed girls (but everyone knows who they are), they are the new MEs. Eight years ago, some guy ran a slightly offensive blog pitting all the big women bloggers in a horse race against each other. Of course, I was one of them. Newspapers ran stories about the new thing young people were doing and my face was on the pages of national dailies, being quoted as a pioneer. I know now that around the country, several young men crushed desperately on a quirky, sombre woman they only knew as IdeaSmith. But that’s not me anymore. The world has moved on to newer news and younger, fresher, more vibrant, more energetic faces.

No, wait, that’s not quite what I’m trying to say because it sounds as if I’m sad. I’m really not. That’s a life I lived when I lived it. I don’t live that life anymore. I’ve performed the tricks, danced through hoops and done the requisite impressiveness. I have been the belle of the ball, the star in the room. And I’m not anymore. Never mind whether I could be or not. It’s that I just don’t feel like doing it anymore – it’s too much effort for things too fleeting.

A few days ago, someone I met recently said that he enjoyed conversations with me. But I wanted to protest,

“We don’t have conversations. We trade wisecracks.”

These are fun to do, no doubt. We show off our wit, our think-on-feetness, our cool references and our hotshot selves. Then what? I’d really like to know the person this is, after all the sparkle has settled. What does he like to eat when he is bored? Who does he think  of when he is unwell? And I’d like to tell him these things about me. But I can’t. He’s off and running, to seek several someone elses who can impress him.

I wish the world didn’t expect me to continue performing. I’m not expecting to be impressed anymore either. I’ll settle for a nice conversation. I guess I am settling down to 35 after all. Unimpressive is not fabulous. But it is comfortable.

Market Day

Today I feel like I’m inside a well
that no one’s looked down in ten years.
And around and just outside the well,
it’s Market Day

The voices and the sounds, they reach me,
blurring into each other and not discernible.
It’s not noise, it isn’t sense either
but it is painful nostalgia, of what life used to sound like,

Of a time and place
when it could be heard,
heard and understood
Of just such a lifetime

There are bees in the sky and a butterfly or two
Stirred by the ruckus that’s Market Day
Even if they seem to be dancing
To the voices, and they are

I see a coin soar arc through the circle above
chink wall, brick, spplasssh water
Market Day at the wishing well
But no one looks to see where the coin fell

Musical Memory

I’ve had a strange relationship with music.

I remember listening to Winds of change by the Scorpions on my walkman, lying between bundles of sheets and clothes in a corner bedroom. I remember that I was wearing a pair of corduroys that seemed to be the most comfortable and yet appropriate garb for the occasion. My grandfather was dead and his body, laid out in the main hall. We had returned from the hospital a few hours earlier and were waiting for the funeral arrangements to be made. The menfolk were out making arrangements while the women, exhausted from the chest-beating and crying had subsided and wilted in various corners of the house. I remember a sense of blankness settle over me like a white blanket, with nothing left to feel, no pain, no tears, no surprise, no relief, no anxiety, no patience. I think that is one of my strongest memories of what I sometimes associated with peace. Waiting without anticipation. This is the first memory that comes to mind each time I hear the song, not the image itself as much as that feeling.

To this day, I can’t listen to Berlin’s Take my breath away without feeling my smile droop. With time, I’ve learnt to do this inside my head only and not let it show, but happen it does. Why? Because the love of my life/ex-best friend once told me that the first time he kissed his first love, this song was playing in the background. Even though I had more of him, I never really had him the way she did. I felt like a replacement, a bad replacement for her. So this song feels alien to me, like I’ve stumbled into someone else’s love story by mistake.

I realised there were some songs I used to sing so often, I could probably render them from any point within the song (this isn’t as simple as it sounds). I never even hum these songs inside my head now. These are Bairi piya from Devdas and Aa bhi ja from Sur. At least these stand out while I know there are a lot more but I’ve just hidden them away so carefully even I’ve forgotten where the key to them is. The abusive ex– liked these, particularly these two and I was made to sing them over and over on repeat. Made to sing I say, but those were the good moments, the rare ones in an otherwise very dark, destructive relationship. But to bring those songs to life with music again would be to acknowledge him as human and not the monster I last remember. I’m not in that place yet, I’m not ready to quite forgive him that much.

Speaking of singing, I have indeed had a strange association with music. I did the mandatory Carnatic music routine as a child, one I hated. All I can remember is the painful knees from being made to sit cross-legged. My one other memory is being forced, much, much against my will to parade my voice at family gatherings, strangers apparently family, ordering me to sing this and that, telling me I had potential and may one day even sing as well as my mother, expressing their disappointment that I couldn’t read the prayer books in Tamil. I hated, hated, hated it. When I was old enough I rebelled and stayed away from the spotlight.

It was a good ten years later, that I took to the stage again, all the way in post-graduate college. And then I realised I loved it. There were many, many experiences…of winning, of losing, of personal glories and defeats. And then abruptly it stopped. It wasn’t that clear to me back then but looking back I can see it clearly. The same relationship, the stain on my naivete, started when he walked out of a quiz he was watching to follow a voice he heard coming through the windows – mine, as I was performing on the stage below. I think somewhere it scared me out of the spotlight, the idea that being out there could bring out the worst kind of predators to hunt me down. I never really pursued the stage again.

It wasn’t till two years later, when I received an iPod for a birthday gift, that I felt able to touch music again. Should I say that he ruined music for me? It isn’t that. Music has never been about a collection of lovely sounds for me. It is a blinder, less mindful experience, more to be sensed with the heart and closed eyes than listened to with the ears and understood with the mind. It is who I was with and what I was doing and feeling when I heard that song. This is not necessarily the first time I heard the song but perhaps, the most poignant experience I ever had when I was listening to the song. It creates the world of the song for me and thereafter listening to the song for me, is experiencing that world all over again.

When love and hate collide makes me choke up every time I heard it. Def Leppard were crooning on the speakers of the car when we rode past the seaface at Bandra one night, the ex-love/ex-best friend after four years and other people. Our banter had ceased, each of us in our private thoughts when he suddenly broke in with, “You know, this song always reminds me of us”. I looked at him, wondering if I had heard him right and then summoning up every drop of my courage, asked, “Having second thoughts?” And he said “Yes”. The love of my life did come back to me and for a brief while entertained the notion of returning to me. He thought about it. He got engaged two months later to the girl he had been seeing. But in that brief window of solitude, us, the possibility of us was alive. ‘When the truth is like a stranger, hits you right between the eyes’. I swear it hits me every damn time I listen to it. If there hadn’t been that brief window of hope, one I didn’t take, I think I’d just have let him subside and pass out of my system like the other boyfriends did. But this song keeps alive the question of “What if I had said yes?”

There are of course the renewed joys of singing or listening to a song that has been a personal jewel.
Na Jaane Kyon brings to mind the accolades but also a rare moment of being recognized for the way I was actually feeling in that moment.
And our batch’s personal anthem and me, its singer.

The unbearable beauty of Dire Straits’ Romeo & Juliet which has been my callertune for four years and is always on my favorites list…how can I explain this? I’d just quote, “You promised me everything, you promised me thick & thin, now you just say Oh Romeo, I used to have a scene with him”. It reminds me of…love in its entirety, love as I’ve known it.

The most recent memory, a song I’ve always enjoyed but now listen to with a bittersweet longing of nostalgia. I saw The Lion King on my sixteenth birthday. And thirteen years later, I found someone who reminded me so much of the song that I personalized his phone number with it as his callertune. Each time he called me, which was at least once or twice a day, it was a serenade with Elton John’s Can You Feel The Love Tonight. I never told him and now that the relationship has been laid to rest, there seems to be no point in doing so. The heart of this star-struck voyager doesn’t beat in time with his anymore, but the song still reminds me of him.

Simon & Garfunkle’s Homeward Bound only (and yes I know this only ever makes sense to me) because of the line “..and all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity, like emptiness and harmony..” Why? Because my name means harmony and that song is metaphorical for how I feel about the way the world receives me.

Yes, I do have a strange relationship with music. You would too, if it was like being dropped into a strange world, one that has never completely been discovered or overcome. Memory is a tricky place to get lost in.

Juhu Beach

Last evening I was overcome by an urge to eat chana masala, the buttery over-spicy type, all covered with raw mango chunks and unidentified (but delicious) stuff on top. The Juhu beach variety. And while at it, bring on a naariyalpaani as well. Why not I asked myself (and oh forgive me for even having to ask in this day and age of the liberated woman et al but I did anyway).

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My first thought when I got into the auto was “I don’t think I’ve ever been to the beach by myself…well, not in ages anyway.” Oddly enough I’ve almost perfected the practice of shopping on my own, solitary book-browsing, sipping a glass of wine at a table for one and buying a single movie ticket. I do all of these by myself and even the pride and novelty have worn away and they’ve become routine leisure activities for holidays and weekends.

The beach is one of my favorite places in the world. Bangalore can keep its pubs and Delhi can flaunt its lavish lifestyle. But neither one has aamchi Mumbai’s beach. Yes, I know that Juhu and Chowpatty don’t boast miles and miles of sunbathing bikini-clad bodies reclining on golden sand. You don’t come to Juhu beach expecting Baywatch, you come because it’s a Mumbai beach.

For a crowded, overpopulated, dizzy-with-its-neon-lights city like Mumbai, the beach is about the only place for a lot of people. A refuge for those who crave proximity to nature. A haven for parents with restless kids and no open spaces. An oasis of relief for lovestruck couples with zero privacy and permission to love from their families. The only option for those who can’t afford to frequent malls and multiplexes (which is pretty much a major chunk of the city’s population).

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Many, many memories have I of this very beach.

Driving in a plastic spade to empty into a matching bucket (aged 6). An early morning visit with my childhood chums the day after our final exams, valiently ferried by my father. We built a castle with a moat around it, then waged a war over the moat, tried to destry our respective works and ended up with what we unanimously call a ‘swimming pool’. Flashback to the photographs (some black-and-white) taken on this beach, in the water, on the sands, with my family, with friends.

‘Hanging out’ at the beach with my newfound college gang. Eating panipuris and golas, and groaning at the mortification of spotting one’s crush a few feet away while clad in stained tee-shirt and involved in extremely uncool activity of gola-guzzling. Sucking on imli for comfort on the walk back to the main road. The one birthday celebration (eighteen) that ended on the beach because I insisted on it. Photographs with our wind-blown hair topping smart party clothes, a snazzy bag cradling a bhelpuri plate. A lot of laughter and fun.

The long walks and talks and much else with the ex-best friend/ex-boyfriend/ex-love of my life. Oasis for penniless students, isn’t it? Ask anyone who grew up in this city…you haven’t been a teenager in Mumbai unless you’ve kissed on the beach.

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More recently, another birthday celebrated with a solitary walk on this very beach. (So yes, it’s not my first time, just the first in a long time). I had had a very bad year and my birthday signalled a new start. As my spirits soared (as they do every single time I catch sight of the sea), I knew I’d be alright. I am a Cancerian through and through. A different person, a completely new being when near the water. Moonlight helps.

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Not much else have I to add here, except that visiting the beach always has the effect of cleaning away all my worries. Maybe it’s just the open air, maybe it is the proximity to the water. Perhaps it’s just that looking into a horizon unfettered by any manmade structure and a sky with stars visible in it reminds of how much bigger, more awesome and breath-taking is the universe than the tiny cocoon of daily annoyances and joys that I call my life. Maybe it is the thought that even in such a crowd, I have a place in this vast universe.

I had a lovely evening at the beach.

Things I Wrote At Sea

Yes, I did think of the world that makes home – friends, blog, work, people – a lot. I promised myself I wouldn’t blog or worry or stress or do any of the things I normally do, while on vacation. But two measly days in, I found myself reaching for my pen and notebook. I couldn’t help it anymore than I could help thinking, I realized. When I stop writing, I’ll stop being. So here goes nothing – my scribbles from my two weeks away. There’s a lot more where that came from. Thank you so much for reading.

It is the knowledge that you have someplace to come back to, that makes travelling delightful.

~o~o~o~

Does distance really make the heart grow fonder? If you care for someone, aren’t they in your thoughts, often, alive and well? And conversations and meetings are just taping sessions for records that may be played over and over again for years and years.

~o~o~o~

Romance has been lost, this is true. Waiting as a concept exists no more. There are no long, yearning waits for people long absent. There aren’t any waits for news, patience the only alternative to insanity in a world of dangers and no returns. We don’t wait for letters to be delivered, for people to come back or even long-distance calls to be put through. Everything is available, yesterday. And there’s nothing left to wait for. Isn’t that supposed to signify the end of life?

~o~o~o~

Two men flirted with me today. A Greek, suave, confident and smooth – conversing easily without slicking it and holding my interest in his gaze. And a Turk with a broad smile and a mischievious wink, his intentions perfectly clear, his gaze entirely appreciative. I was wearing shorts.So my body draws attention. I love it myself but my face leaves me short. Never mind, I’ve gotten used to thinking that my assets lie elsewhere. But when they change, stay assets no more, what will I do? Will I remember my own adage that there’s no greater beauty than a body that can perform every function that it was designed to? Legs that hold me and carry me places. Hands and fingers that do…so much. Eyes that see, read – the most wonderous gift of all. A body that runs near perfectly requiring little aid and only some care.

I stay beautiful as long as I can do all that. And as long as I can remember that.

~o~o~o~

Sometimes it is nice to just be by yourself, not because you don’t like other people but simply to experience yourself every now and then and see what other people see…and what they don’t.

~o~o~o~

What bonds people together? A common need – like vegetarians huddling together on this adventure of non-vegetarians? Or a shared past – classmates, colleagues, neighbors, playmates? Shared interests like books, music, photography, wine, travel? Similar demographics – neighbors, religious communities, parents of school-going children? And yet we labour under the delusion that relationships are about compatibility or love.

It seems like we select the most convenient people we can and mold ourselves to fit the association. Human beings are enormously flexible.

~o~o~o~

Time To Stand Or Stare

What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stand or stare?

– W.H.Davies

There’s no point in having a window with a view if you never look out of it.

– IdeaSmith

terrace-view.jpg

Yesterday was such a beautiful day – not rainy, not sunny…just perfect! It didn’t even matter that it was a working day and I was at office in the middle of a busy schedule. I took my work up to the terrace with a cup of lemon tea and spent an hour quietly immersed in numbers and charts, occasionally indulging in the sneaky joy of being distraced by the birds on the banyan tree next door.

What bliss, what luxury! In the midst of a maddening city beset by horrible weather, I found myself experiencing something rare, virtually unfamiliar – contentment. I wasn’t thinking that I’d rather be out shopping or watching a movie or swimming or curled up in bed with a book. Everything was as it was; perfect.

I worked late into the evening leaving just a breath before 10 and it took me close to an hour to get home, stuck in traffic jams and bad roads on the way. But it was a perfect day.

And today it rained. *Sigh*

At least I was given yesterday and I took it.

SMS

1:25 a.m. is more Saturday night than Sunday morning, no matter what the calendar says.

After a day of light drizzle or no rain, the clouds let themselves go again. For a few seconds all I can hear is the rain. Not the sound the ground makes as the water hits it, nor the metal and glass and concrete shrugging off droplets. Just the sound of the rain.

And perhaps because it’s raining, Bombay is quiet outside my window, even on a Saturday night.

I pick up my phone and thumb out,

I guess you are in sleepy-bye land. It’s pouring outside my window and so the road is quiet for a Saturday night. A good time to be alone and watching the world sleep. Know what I mean? Tell me in the a.m. when you are awake and I’m not.

When I talk, I wonder if the person listening, gets what I’m saying.
After awhile when I know they do, I listen appreciatively and in anticipation for them to validate that impression.

I savour their silence,
allowing me to speak
as I know I will
let them taste my silence
with their words, shortly.

So if listening in silence is really just giving the other person a space to speak…
what else is sleep
but giving them the space to be themselves,
without you,
examining the world around
and picking what they want to bring back to you…
…and letting you do the same?

Truly, my lovely solitude is sweetened by thoughts of you.

Inside A Cliche

Alone in a cafe, with a glass of white wine,
sitting next to a window overlooking a rain-soaked lake,
with Jean-Paul Sartre lying on my lap

Is that too much of a cliche? A cliche of what?
Sophistication
Boredom
No…Solitude. Detachment. Indifference.

Inside a cliche is the only place that a passionate person is disspassionate.

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