Origami

On my body, you will find

The lines you’re looking for. These creases

are just old enough – for the lines

To not become borders. impenetrable.

Impregnable. Trace your fingers across

My solar plexus, and you will

Find

 

[Pigeons soar alongside, I see them

Racing to stay in my line of vision

As we hurtle on, epiphanies within

Sight. They throw themselves

At me only to hit duplicitous glass. Now,

The light turns liquid and flows down

The cracks they leave behind.]

 

                                       The light

Of a million galaxies trickling down.

If you listen closely, there’s bird song

Too. You will bend me, and I will

Comply. Rehearsed; this routine isn’t

A lie. But it isn’t the truth either.

 

There are only questions in these folds.

 

These folds that are grey with age.

 

This is an age unwilling to bend.

But around the bend, lies the answer.  

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Glitter

I lie in a bed not made for me,
Wrapped in sheets that smell of you.
You, who stay away, far far away,
a thousand miles, a million galaxies
away, in the room adjoining. There,
I spy you, hiding among shadows that
grow as evening turns to night. Sometimes,
what you seek is not what you find.

I am shrouded in darkness – I want
to believe you search for me just as I
turn to you. There is much I imagine as I
breathe you in, but lesser that I forget as I
air you out. We are lost in the dark and to each
other. The night has worn us. You glimmer
pale, reflecting your thoughts. Sometimes,
the people who save us, also enslave us. 

You plague me – as you are and as you could be. 
You are a warlock, an addiction; a spell cast,
a charm thrown, another self invoked. I am as afraid
of seeing as I am of dreaming, for I thought I saw me
when i saw you. Illusions must not last. Now, we
must sink the stone. Before it ends, the surface
will shiver. Now, we must disappear. Because
sometimes, we are just the dust, not the gold. 

I now pronounce You.

Image

One of the trailers for Shuddh Desi Romance begins with, of all things, a statistic: “77% women feel it is wrong to kiss on the first date” (or something to that effect). This is followed by a shot of Raghu (Sushant Singh Rajput) and Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra) going at it, presumably on their first date; after which comes yet another ticker: “If you disagree, come watch our movie” (or something to that effect, again).

This, of course, is complimented by a week full of afternoon news on TV channels with headlines like: “27 KISSES!!! IS Sushant Singh Rajput the new Emraan Hashmi?!” Forget food security, riots in UP, Wawrinka’s almost there genius, Syria and the rest of the world, because this, really, is quite the crucial question that all our lives depend upon. But, umm, I can’t overdo the sarcasm bit at this point because I, after all, did go watch this film, intrigued as I was by the prospect of seeing that beautiful man locking lips and acting skills with not one, but two, women! (voyeur much?)

So, ladies and gentlemen, imagine my disappointment when, by the time the intermission (or bathroom break, as they call it in the film) has arrived, I realise that he’s done nothing but kiss so far, and that his acting skills seem to be some kind of a mirage, an illusion that emerged thanks to those glistening bronzed six-pack abs that took our collective breath away in Kai Po Che, his debut film. As Raghuram Sitaram, he plays the tour guide + local loafer + baarati available on hire, who falls in love (at first sight) with a random girl he meets on a bus, en route his own wedding. What should’ve been an awkward but adorable guy comes across as horny and not a little retarded with his repetitive ‘kya hai’s.

Now this girl he’s fallen in love with is your average Indian cutesy thing, who talks about her previous boyfriends, and smokes, incessantly. And this girl (Vaani Kapoor) he’s about to leave at the altar (at the pretext of taking a leak, no less) is a beauty of epic proportions and seems to be the well-behaved, demure kind that is the stuff of Indian guys (and their mothers’) wet dreams. But the heart wants what it wants, so run away we must, safe in the knowledge that we shall find her.

After a rushed, incoherent proposal, Gayatri and Raghu end up in a live-in relationship (which lasts for 15 mins screen time, but I hope is supposed to mean at least a month?). After a few ups and downs, and a lot of dancing at the camera to a song that goes “ab chali meri love life” (along with smoking, drinking and shaving together), they decide to get married one drunk night.

To cut a long story short (and to avoid spoilers, and because the plot is not what I want to talk about), let’s just say that there’s a love triangle brewing. All three have commitment issues, get cold feet easily and are in the bad habit of leaving without saying goodbye. There usual excuse is that they must visit the loo right this very moment. Rishi Kapoor and his royal moustache are a pleasant break from the monotony of secret looks and winks and nudges that this film relies on. And the choice of Jaipur and Jodhpur as backdrops make sure the aesthete in you is satiated. And the stylistic moorings of the film are fresh and deserve praise.

But, finally getting around to what I actually wanted to talk about: This film attempts to put the spotlight on live-in relationships. Jaideep Sahni, the man who’s given us gems like Khosla ka Ghosla and Chak De India! in the past, experiments with the modern-day idea of a relationship — speedy, raunchy, naughty and with an exit always in view. For this, he looks at the concept of a live-in relationship and, it seems to me, approaches the subject like a star-eyed little child: there’s presumption aplenty and a thought not well-executed.

Since I belong to the generation of people he’s put his lens on (and seems quite sympathetic towards), I feel that his characters are just caricatures. These semi-etched people then fall in and out of love in the wink of an eye, think themselves street-smart but are actually blind to the motions of cupid and dear old Goel saab, and are also quite scarred by the travesty that is life. Towards the end, while analysing (or rationalising?) his behaviour, Raghu finds blame in all these fake weddings that he sees day in and day out. “How can I bring myself to commit to someone when I bear witness to the sham that Indian weddings are?” he asks of his companion (as promised, no spoilers).

This is where things get problematic.

First, weddings do not a marriage make. I mean, of course, you can’t have a marriage without some sort of ceremony to put you in binding contract, forever and for always. But there’s so much more to making a marriage work than simply the rituals. Yes, we do go crazy, bordering on intense insanity, during weddings. Yes, there’s ample posturing. But beyond that, what you make of your relationship is entirely based on your mutual capability and will to adjust.

Second, our main characters here seem to choose a live-in relationship as an alternative to, quite in rebellion of, marriage. All the people I know who prefer to do live-ins are actually opposed to marriage as an institution, not tired of weddings (or out of money to buy a good pair of Nikes). In Shuddh Desi Romance, the raison de etre for a live-in relationship just seems to be an aversion to being “forced” to be in a relationship.

Third, this “being forced” comes from the assumption that marriages are forever. For characters as independent and strong-minded as these, divorce or separation can’t be out of the realm of possibility, logically speaking. So, for Raghu to say “this getting married business doesn’t suit me” because it feels like imprisonment, is a little out of character too.

Sahni’s intention is clear — he wants to normalise the idea of a live-in relationship by placing his film and the characters in a tier II city, a little away from the melting pots that metropolises like Delhi and Mumbai are becoming. He also wants to show what factors could lead up to a couple choosing to keep in informal. But, the reasons he finds along the way are confused, and end up portraying an entire generation of people as thoughtless, naive and childish. Can’t see this going down too well around here.

True Love

There was once a boy who knelt in front of me with a bouquet in his hand and said that he loved me by way of asking me out – such was his innocence in matters of the heart. I was his first love (the rest were mere crushes) and he did everything he could think of to keep it going. He bought me flowers, chocolates, food, music, books, walks around beaches, beer (though he was a teetotaller) and oodles of chicken (though he was a vegetarian), he wept for my pain and laughed for my happiness, he sang me songs, he wrote me letters…oh the letters – going away letters, coming back letters, random stream of consciousness letters, gifting letters, celebratory letters.

When he handed me one while we were sitting next to a window in a fast moving bus one day, it blew away. I was reading it with tears in my eyes for it had promises I was desperate to hear. And then the wind blew it away. I turned to him, eyes full of shock and apology, and he just said it was alright. I was going away and he was dropping me to the airport. When I returned 15 days later, he handed me a patched up piece of paper. It was muddy, crumpled and torn in places. He’d gone back to that exact spot and fished about in the gutter and the roadside and found most of the scraps and taped it back. It left me speechless.

Towards the end of our relationship — and I knew it was ending at astronomical speed, and there was nothing I could do to stop it — a very flippant acqaintance of mine commented that he was a very good boy, and that I didn’t deserve him. She’d met him fleetingly once and barely knew me in our two years of shallow camaraderie. I was shocked — and this comment worked to cleave us apart all the more. I know it was unreasonable, i knew it then, but how do you explain all this to a passion-filled heart?!

A year and a half later, I am sorry for how things transpired between us. There are times when I regret my actions, but I know if all this were to happen again, in some other universe or another time-space axis, as they show in the sci-fi movies, I’d end up doing it again. The coordinates may have changed but the climax would’ve stayed the same. At some point in those four years, I’d begun to see the unseeable: This wasn’t it.

I really am sorry. Please take care of him, Universe.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

There was once a girl who radiated happiness in a manner that could put the sun to shame. She came from Kashmir, from a conventional Muslim family, yet, defeating all stereotypes of the world (as most people are wot to do at some point of time or the other) she had attended the hallowed halls of a much cherished, much desired all-girls college in Delhi. Her father was in the merchant navy. She rode to college everyday in a creamy white Corolla Altis with her grandmother and five-year old sister in tow. The surveillance on her life was very heavy. Her stint at the college where we met was her first experience in a co-educational school. It had taken her parents a lot of will power to let her go to a co-ed school for this implied immediate contamination.

But she was a bubbly child, super-excited about being in the company of boys other than her brothers and in an open environment. She wore fully covered salwar kameez with Puma sneakers and a grey backpack, which carried her notebooks onto which she inscribed notes like a dictaphone. She loved the world of hi-fashion and had grown up to venerate the ways of South Delhi ladies. But her innocence made her seem cherubic. She laughed and giggled and hugged and kissed and sang and hummed and danced and burst with such energy that the first thing any of us wanted to see when we reached college was her big smile and a big bear hug — it made it seem like everything in the world would be alright.

I fell for her in a way only a girl can fall for another girl, minus any sexual connotations. I wanted to be the reason she smiled, laughed, i wanted to be her best friend, her secret keeper, her advice giver and seeker, her confidante and co-conspirator. It might seem childish now, but a day of her absence made me restless for I didn’t know who to turn to for company. Some of the best times from college I remember today are with her in the picture.

Halfway through our course, she fell in love with an Afghan fellow. I warned her, attempted to make her understand that these things should be taken one step at a time and not rushed into. She wouldn’t listen — she had an army of Bollywood stories to back up her convictions that he was the one and if you don’t die for your love, it never was love at all. In the end, she listened to another — one who brought the same look into her eyes as she did to mine. I’d never thought I’d be in a platonic love triangle!

Today, I don’t know where she is. None of us know where she is. Even her Afghan sweetheart has no clue where she is, seeing as he was violently thrown out of her life. Her father called us all up and warned us to not speak of her ever again or there wold be dire consequences. Her heartthrob blames the end of their relationship squarely on her. And her FB page looks like a vigil for someone long gone.

Not a day goes by when I don’t think of her. I fell in love with her – it was that simple. She may not have reciprocated, but she had a good heart and does not deserve this state of affairs. Please take care of her too, Universe.

Narrow Escape

That morning, I woke up wanting
only a vision to calm the restive animal
hammering to get out of  my rib cage.

That morning, my breakfast
was a few dry crumbs dissolved in tea gone 
cold. I wasn’t paying attention. 

That morning, all those years of lies
And deceit were unwanted company 
On the balcony, twirling in tune with the smoke.

That morning, the valley yonder
was a vast, relentless admonishment —
“Who do you think you’re running away from?”

That morning, I thought I’d escaped
on a blue bus, out of the city, out of the civil,
out of me. And there I was, face to face.

That morning, the wilderness was inside
me like never before, confusion reigning,
anger thrashing, the madness hunting.

That morning was just the night in camouflage,
only just beginning to descend. With fingers
clammy, it would’ve squeezed me bloodless.

But that morning turned into noon, into 
evening and into twilight, and i walked
from sunset to sunset and rainbow to rainbow
and felt the monster disengage, dissipate,
apparate as the sweat on my forehead
arrived to witness………………………………..

…………………………………….THIS.

Reckoning

2012. Distances grow. Without meaning to. From innocence, from love, from sharing, from family. From concern, from grappling, from reality. From truth. From coherence. From understanding. Growing up is happening too fast. Suddenly, there is no time. I’ve lost myself in a tumult of the outside, forgetting myself in the hurricane. Gladly so. Suddenly, it is easy to ignore the mundane, be engrossed in the trivial. It is easy to feel like I’m doing something of credibility, of worth, something that will have an impact. Much harder to realise, in moments of self-truth, that this may not really be so. At the end of the day, my eyes hurt behind lids that are coloured grey and red every time I close them. Loud guffaws of the day echo in some cob-webby attic of the mind. There’s distance in perceiving time too. Days have begun to feel like an age. Exhaustion consumes me, I don’t have the energy to think things through. And yet, this is ordinariness. Others have lives twisting into hyperbole every second. And I run away from them, from myself because I have no solace to offer. Every morning, I wake up unwillingly, and the first thought that floats into mind is a tiny prayer for a sense of humour to a God I don’t particularly believe in. And he/she grants it to me. And I live on…

The illogic of small big-big things.

Beware of the night, they whisper.

In the black, there are always, and only, shades of grey.

A vortex, it will slurp up the white, like a Hoover,
Burp and beam, from Jaapan to Jalandhar.

Replete with satisfaction, it will leave red.
In your face, on the road, on your sheets.

And then Society will come a-knocking.
And all they’ll be able to see anymore is the mud.
Horrors. No blairwitch, this. “She wouldn’t listen”
Is all they’ll have to say, passing it on.

*Facepalm*. Life’s sucha bitch.

Friends, anyone?

Airtel’s (now slightly old) new ad campaign says har ek friend zaroori hota hai. Every friend is important. Or every friend holds some place in one’s life. Every friend is special, indispensable. It attempts to sell talk-time to a generation that lives in college canteens in groups on kulhads of chai; bunks classes to smoke pot in huddles or watch movies in single file rows; has survived on watching re-runs of ‘The One Where…’ episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S and absorbed more life lessons from those than any classroom lecture. The day it was launched, the video went viral on Youtube and Facebook and every few seconds, somebody or the other would post a new status message getting all soppy and emotional about dosti and what all their friends meant to them, as if it had JUST then occurred to them the vital wisdom of this simple statement.

Look at the ad stills at bus stops – the lazy friend, the bookish friend, the kanjoos friend, the adventurous friend…and it goes on. But here are some they totally…forgot (is the word)… to include i guess:

The Study-Notes Friend : Come February-March and I suddenly find there’s an increase in the number of people willing to buy me coffee or wanting to talk with me or simply just beaming at me from across the room. Of course, the fact that I record notes like a dictaphone has nothing with this, it’s just the spring air, yaar.

The I’m-Never-Going-To-Pay-You-Back Friend : Soo, you lent her some money one beautiful morning, when she needed it and you still thought she wasn’t one of ‘those’. But turns out….abhi toh pocket money nai aayi yar, my boyfriend dumped me yar, i lost my phone, my wallet, FIVE HUNDDDRUD bucks yaaaarrr….yaaaaarrrr, *puppy face*, kal pakka haan!

The Bottomless Void Friend : Who basically measures the amount he/she loves you by the ounces you put into him/her (oh well, you might as well say IT!). Feed them, nurture them, water them (with beer and whatnot) and IT shall be yours lovingly forever (till your resources for such fruitful enterprise run out). Even Marley knows where his loyalties lie, bones or no bones, yaar.

The Vanity-Fair Friend : She will bring you all the gossip and shine her royal light on you, at the price of at least one compliment a day. Or she will do whatever it takes to get all the boys’ attention, all the spotlight so she can radiate the sun into oblivion. Or he will crack witticisms about everything and bring to you the most bizarre, alternative information engineered to blow your mind away and make him cool. And the moment you stop the flow of admiration, he/she will begin to see in you the essence of your office’s dusty furniture. Mein bhi toh sultry hun, yaar!

The Who DAT? Friend : You’re walking down a street and you come across a face you know very well, and you stop, turn and run back to say hi! But the person is so oblivious to a world outside of their own personal haywire orbit that they cannot place you. Orrrrr, they pretend not to place you because you’re just not cool enough to be on their list of acquaintances even! Of course, this comes after they’ve ignored your calls, messages, wall texts, tweets, postcards, inland letters, pink-scented love letters…once your medium of association has expired. Out of sight, out of mind is only fair, afterall i know soo many people, yaar!

The Le Joker Friend : Sinister, like, Heath Ledger in the Dark Knight, this one’s particularly tricky because they’ve got split personalities and many faces. She will be always by your side, you will witness her ups and downs, you will an intrinsic part of her life, glass-shattering, wrist-scratching, self-loathing moments included. But the moment you go home, she will tell the world how you torment her, sabotage her, prey on her, steal from her, mooch from her and basically treat her like she’s the doormat. Sympathy milegi toh boyfriend bhi toh milega, yaar!

Of course, this list goes on. We’d all find some or other ‘friend’ who’s done this or more to us, duped us into believing this is the real thing. OR we might squirm and, if we still have a heart left, admit that we too have not been ‘holier than thou’ and done something awful to some unsuspecting soul, maybe not so wittingly ourselves. So if the bums at Airtel wish us to believe that being nonchalant about it will make it alright, they must know heartbreak and friendships don’t mend easily. And if all they’re trying to do is tell the world to get a grip and be good to your ‘hommies’ too, well, it’s a noble enterprise, but i do think it is a rather lost message in this day and age of short attention spans, shorter memories and big humongous egos blooming at terribly young ages instead. Dosti ho toh aisi yar!

Used to pain, Unaccustomed to life

Jhumpa Lahiri’s narratives have always been about life, love and loss, in equal measures. All her books, The Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth, deal with one common overarching theme : adjustment. In the most recent of her books, Unaccustomed Earth, a compilation of short stories, she traces the lives of first or second generation migrant Bengalis in the USA. The stories deal with death, displacement, compromise and all that accompanies these themes in real life.

A woman and her father move on with life once the only thing that connects them, the wife and mother, has died of cancer. Another woman watches her mother fall in love with another man, sees her heart shattered, and tries to understand her values, the only thing that bind her mother to her father. The second half of the book is a novella of sorts, tracing the lives of a Bengali girl and boy, who grow up together, yet apart, through the trying circumstances of their separate lives. Falling in love eventually, only to lose it finally, the tragedy of their shared life is the reckless timing, even of nature.

All the stories reflect a despondency we are all familiar with, acquired through the harsh blows life doles out to us every now and then. But through the mild sense of the blues this book might envelop the you in, you sense the maturity of her characters and of their responses to everyday tragedies and the less commonplace dilemmas that accompany starting new lives in newer surroundings. The book is a good read for a languid winter afternoon, when you want to contemplate on the true meanings of everything that goes on around us.

That thing on my arm…

They often ask me, why stars?

To which i can never think of a singular concrete reason. Like a four leaf clover is for luck, angels are for security, chinese letters are, well, to embody whatever they’re supposed to mean. I can’t ever come with an objective-type answer for ‘why stars?’

I remember somebody telling me once that you are preoccupied by what you usually draw on pages subconsciously, like when you’re sitting in a boring class or are on the phone having a long winding conversation. That what you end up doodling is what is uppermost in your mind and will in many ways be a tell-tale sign of what you are and what you want and what will be most important to you. So when i’m asked this question, i remember the many many stars i’ve drawn on the back pages of my notebooks, throughout the years.

I also remember that stars are supposed to mean ambition, like hearts are for love, flowers are for clean-heartedness – among the more common things people end up doodling. I also remember Physics chapters on stars and black holes and the whole phenomenon that had me hooked. That part of Physics was possibly the easiest to understand that entire year.

And i remember lounging on a beach in Goa one October evening many years ago, when the sky was bursting with stars and i was breathless with disbelief at their immensity and wishing like a child for some to fall on my lap so i could preserve them forever in a jar and keep them next to me.

So when the time came to etch one up for good, it seemed like stars would be an obvious option – they’re pretty, they sparkle and they’ve sort of been part of me for the different levels of wonderment and joy they’ve brought.

Maybe, someday, my stars will grow and blossom into something else. Maybe, just maybe, there will be evolution. Until then, they fizz and shoot up and down my arm, up and down my spine.