Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category
Vishnu Talkies stands lost, like a piece from ancient times, among the crowd of towering buildings that have mushroomed in past few years when the world of India’s Capital chose to move upwards. There stands a curved metal hoarding upon a narrow opening which reaches to its narrow entrance gate. We walk into the street, past a pirated video store, a beauty parlor, a cheap restaurant where a huge potbellied man sat frying samosas at its door in a huge black pan bubbling with overused overheated dark oil. I take her hands in mine when we reach the Cinema’s iron grilled gate. On our left there is the ticket window, closed. On right, however, they are selling tickets, in black.
Inside, a grimly thin man waits at the balcony door, an Eveready Steel torch sewed around with frayed cotton dangles around his neck. With a haunting screech he pulls the door open, and ushers us in the dimly lit hall and focuses his torch upon our seats. I walk behind her, holding her by elbows, between the rows of aged wooden pushback chairs with coconut cushions, striped covers.
“Why were you staring at her?” She asks, when on the screen a young lady – her Vaseline-lacquered skin shines incredibly against her frazzled clothes – has just escaped her perpetrators, and has taken refugee in this similarly frazzled backyard of a temple. I strain my eyes. Pitch-dark, popcorn-punching-dark hall bars my vision. Time for rape.
“Who,” I ask groping for her face.
“That whore. Outside the video store.”
The scene has moved on, like life always does, to a brighter frame where an old man is holidaying with his family in an exotic country, Switzerland, or Ireland, or may be Holland, whatever… they all seem to have snowsnow and more snow, and castles and castles and more castles, and grass green until the eyes go, and people, all very good, always helping, ever tolerating you knocking at their doors in the middle of the night for shelter and happily granting the same, fuckers, where do such people exist? But then, a movie is not a movie if it’s all about what you see in your real life. It must be larger than life. Villains more villainous. Heroes more heroic. Beauties more beautiful. Life more peaceful. People more generous. And blah blah.
Well in this scene, the old man throws flakes of snow at the kids, they return-fire at him at once, and they all laugh in their heavy jackets and long hoods. Heartily. A little far away, this old man’s daughter skis with her husband, taking turns to skid ahead of the other, coltish rivalry, both laughing their hearts, eyes. Happiness it seems – as they sell it – to be a gift package of return tickets to these snowy hills and laughter and more laughter.
We should buy it once, “Let’s go to some place like this,” I stroke her palm, and on them plant an unusually soggy kiss. She blushes. I know. When she does, she lets her hands loose, almost like giving in. “And what would I tell to my folks?” One curt touch of reality and here goes all the dreams rolling down the hill. Large Reality skiing on even larger fantastic snow. What is large can not be made fit in what is small.
It’s wonderful. Falling out of love.
Long time ago, people tried hard, damn hard to keep the flame intact, keep the persons glued, love burning, but times are different now, burn hurts, love hurts, they want freedom, freedom of responsibility, answerability. They don’t want anyone to poke them for anything. They are different now, and with each passing moment, they grow more distant, more different. And eventually comes a day when you find them so far away that you wonder if you ever knew them; if they ever cared for you; if they ever went awry so much so that they grew angry over mundane things, like your missing a dinner, or leaving your clothes unwashed in a bucket, or mess of your room, all out of pure innocent concern, love. And then life starts falling apart into pieces, gnawed at by bitter teeth of some past reality, of some past relationship, of some long ago commitment – so what if that commitment didn’t charge you up now, you had made them once, now you owe them your life…right honey? So what if people of your recent acquaintances are left behind on mud of hurt, abandoned in dirt to die slowly, minute-by-minute, in futile trial. So what if they had claimed love to them once, their past loves had to reclaim them, their past had to reign their present, and people of recent past – I mean a month or so old – don’t mean a thing, they were there just for the sake of being, cursed of existence, of desertion.
Initially survival seems a distant dream, gradually you learn to live with all this, convincing yourself with each passing moment that that was just a dream, a hollow dream, an abyss, like a black hole, the more you want to come out the more you are trapped in, and try to keep that dream at bay, far, far away from yourself, just like those people have kept themselves so far away from you, and then gradually the image starts to fade, and normalcy reclaims itself. But it doesn’t happen every time. Sometimes you can not differentiate reality to dreams, and you give in, yield to the pungent taste of what has been thrown at you, and the only oasis – not to save your life, but only to assuage the pain a little with slippery fluid that makes your past slip away, as if rolling down a mountain – appears as alcohol. And you booze and booze and booze, for whole nights, 16 hours in stretch, until all senses of time and space translate themselves into some hazy, dull colors, the events of past seem to lie in some long ago, earlier lifetime, not connected to you directly so that you can comment on them like an spectator, not as a victim; until all your ego, your pillars, your means to exist slip past the present moment and you slouch in front of them, almost begging them, to take you back in their lives, but – alas! – there is no such thing as pity, they just don’t know it, they are as cold as ice, as hard as iron, and you are once again thrown on the streets. This time your ego doesn’t hurt, it can’t, it has become inured to insults, it wants that person, and only that person. It abets you for another try, and you follow it hungrily, hoping to see a flicker of sympathy, and may be love. That too eventually dies out but you keep repeating it as a ritual – sacred out of sheer repetition – and that person becomes venerable to you, almost like a god, you standing out of a temple, and the god shooing you out of the premise. Are you cursed? No, only ignored. Not worthy enough of existence. But, devoid of your ego, you look at your god eagerly, merely to hear him say something, any tripe, any silly excuse, any stupid rationale, and you gulp all in, whipping your tongue out, hungry for more silly things.
Then the god says, love is like a puddle of dirty water, one falls in, one falls out, no one wants to remain in. Great philosophy! Philosophies are for losers, only to keep their head calm, and away from action. Drink in the theory and forget the reality…eh!
“God, but…why are you leaving me?”
“Because I have to.” God replies. And he thinks he is right, have said enough to make sense, and alleviate the agitating brain, and heart of yours.
Well, we morons are not to raise a finger at him; he does what he pleases. And yesterday he had his reasons for it. A long time ago relationship, and a long time ago commitment. He can’t live with the past and the present at once. He chose his past, fair enough, seniority matters, depth ness?, ah…who cares? Whatever. It’s a wonderful feeling, you know, falling out of love. To shatter everything that you held so close to your heart, with such rudeness, and so suddenly, that it takes a lifetime to rebuild them again. Brick and mortar, slathering the ruin, in the last vestige of your once-upon-a-time love story, how can you pick them, each for its respective position and put them again in order? There is no way. No way.
People find different ways to deal with it, to head off the frustration of loss. I do it by boozing, smoking, and of course writing. In distant hope that perhaps god would read it someday, and if any pity has left in him, he would probably let me in into the temple, not to love me – I know he will not, he can not, perhaps he never had – just to share my existence, rebuilding my confidence in life. But can you stop loving god? No. With each heartbeat of yours, your heart would utter only his name, only his love.
It’s like the taste of pain. Wonderful, enthralling, but sordid.
“Here comes your turn, enjoy ani.”
“Yes…yes…thanks honey.” I mumbled, as he kicked me to the hell.
Ever tried turning a normal stuff into sinister, a benign concern into treachery, a pure love into hatred, may be pogrom?
People do it, everyday, everytime, everywhere, and assert that they are right. Of course, they are – things you do – and if you can defend them, they are right, and you righteous.
But what does the whole essence of whole business of whole life remain then? We take birth, we make birth, and we are gone. Just like that. Mechanical. Robotic. He came, he saw, he went. Why did he come here? To make children, or to make a living, or to make a relation, or to make money, or name, or fame, or home…what? What did he come for? Nothing stays, neither he, nor his creations, his assortments. Nothing. What does he endeavor for then? The whole business looks like a game of puppet. Where the control of our master chip is in someone else’s hands. And we just act; just move here-there-here-there. Who is the director of this play? Who…God? He is the one who makes us feel what we feel, makes us dread what we are scared of, make us want what we desire? He is the controller of my life; my world; my desires. Foolish. Who gave him these rights, these powers? Is there a bigger God than him? And then another big one…then another…then another…and another. Does it stop anywhere? No, not at all.
So, much to my chagrin, I deny the existence of any God.
So, much to my ease, I tend to breach the laws, the codes of morality, ethics, principles and all the bullshit.
So, much to my delight, I live life without any logics, rationalities, expectations, planning. Only on impulse, by whim.
Now, back to my question, did you ever try going beyond the fences, trespassing the boundaries, breaking your image that people have in their heads?
I did. Last night. When I asked her about love. “Is it flat or circular?”
Oh, love again. Can’t you think of any other thing? Who….me? why should I think of anything else…why…when this is intriguing me for…I don’t know how many days…one problem at a time…one…single…the lesser the easier…only one at a time…I will solve love first…then my life…then the world. But first, love. I know she will help me, she has to, who else will if not she…who?
“Certainly not flat. It has many ripples, many ups-and-downs. Can’t be flat. Circular…no. Love can’t be circumscribed. No boundaries please.”
And she chuckles; her benign smile that can alter the course of stars, dripping down from her eyes, in small droplets, held at the edge, between the flickering lashes, glued with kajal and dreams, ready to fall, and then a moment later…air-borne, flowing in the air, her smile flying without wings, by the sheer force of love, of hope, of a life after this moment, of intimacy beyond this distance; fixes her eyes that held several questions onto mine, and incites the dormant passions.
I move towards her…closer and closer…Love is no geometry, it is chemistry. I understand the basic principles in her arms. Here remains no complexity, no weird equations, no rationalities, nothing…only me and her and love…fixed to each other…clung to each other…lost.
She is the panacea I was in search for so long. She is the home, my home.
It is a mistake. Love itself is a mistake. It hides the reality, the cruelty of the real world, real people, real adversaries, and preens the world around us with white, snow white, bridal dreams and fictions. Love is an escape.
“Only love is real, rest is a fallacy.” She murmurs, half asleep.
It’s a strange thing. She is so real, so close, so mine that nothing else seems to be true but only she, yet there lurks a strange notion of discomfort…what if everything turns out to be a dream and…no, it can not be like this. It has to be the truth. It has to be.
Love makes you belligerent…eh?
But sometimes love makes you weak instead. What do you do then when you find no strength to face off the brutal world? Where do you retreat: recluse, solitude, dark, or death? Suicide…hmm?
No way, it’s the greatest cowardice…Why? When I have a right to live, don’t I have a right to die? It’s my life after all…No, the life is precious, you can’t chuck off something precious just like this…why not? I own it. I can make it, I can break it…stupid, once you have broken it, you can never un-break it. You are free, but not as much as to end you freedom. You die, you end everything. Even your freedom to love…Stop it. Don’t preach me. I have had enough of you all.
Death is not free. You can desire it; you can’t claim it.
Love is not free. You can desire it; you can’t claim it.
May be a constant struggle to make things our way. “Isn’t it darling?”
“We will make it…will make it together. Come here…” And she slips into slumber.
This story is an old story, written long back. My present is asking too much of my past these days.
This one is however a crap. Read it at the risk of your sanity.
A world is there, beyond stars
Another era awaits, miles afar
No laments, no paeans
That world is all above par.
They said: past is only a prologue to future. I admitted. Then they said: once done, it’s done for always, can never be reworked upon. And I accepted. Then: your future is destined; things would happen in a pre-decided fashion, like it happens in the dramas. I conceded. Then they added: your life has got a special purpose, some meaning, some reason. And I was confused.
I stopped. Waited for a miracle. All my life like an idle sculpture upon the canvas of earth, doing nothing, going nowhere. Thinking everything. Was this my purpose? Filling up the space that was empty, playing surrogate in others’ lives, adjoining them at ends only to illustrate their being, existing as if I never existed, moron, testy emotional windbag; a nugatory existence on the vast expanse of cosmos. One who demanded in abundance; but received scarcely – happiness on a pro tem basis.
My past, as I would surmise, was like an obliterated chapter of a best-seller that had no impact on the popularity of the book. The book was unaware, the author ignorant, and the readers unknown. I wailed from inside the stern mannequin. Only the reflections came back. Nothing else. I frowned, squalled, pummeled, bumbled and then stopped in full sweat. But it was over. I had lost that. I had lost myself. All the pages were blown away, scattered in every direction, some with wind, some with men, some at home, some on roads, some with her, some with me. Why did it happen – I didn’t know. When did it happen – I couldn’t point. How did it happen? Perhaps, I knew.
I was in bed. It was said that dawning dreams were blessed by ‘Aurora’ and hence were in the closest proximity of reality. I was trying to dream – a dream that I had cherished for long. When you face something out of your control, you give it up upon the almighty, upon the ploy of your own destiny. I was trying the same. The dingy fan, hung by the ceiling, was orbiting reluctantly like a slave who carried a weight on his back, muttering in annoyance; but could do nothing in vengeance. It wailed out its anger in wailing screeches, though, it never decanted the thick layer of dust sprawled all over its back. Only the words came out, the action however remained suspended. It had accepted the script and its role in it. Lack of courage; lack of foresight; or lack of dreams?
I budged slightly inside the blanket. There was no dream. Only few drifting thoughts. Virgin sunlight patted against the window pane. Few of them succeeded in falling inside while rest unified back. Winners triumphed over the newly acquired independence and announced a dream voyage inside my room. Soon they realized their confinement and conceded. They too were slaves, nature’s slaves – abided and aided and abided by universal formulae that didn’t allow them much liberty. After few minutes, one of those laws stimulated little shift in the sun, causing the rays fall candidly upon me. I turned over my back and won the petty battle with the nature. It was a humane approach. Formulate a rationale and run away from the field. You don’t win the battle, neither do you lose it. But you, of course, manifest that the battle wasn’t worth your efforts. Simple! Eh.
Sun was out on its perpetual gadding. It was afresh. No trace of yesterday’s shambles. Ablaze with the sparkle that a sound sleep endows with; blushing so much so that each part of the sky reddened; promising of another great miraculous day as it perched up along the steep inclination of the sky. The rubbles were kept away. It had renounced one more day of its past. And now it was reincarnated anew. Horizon at one end triumphed, another waited patiently for its turn. Soon, it would go higher, oust its soft red with burning blare yellow, settle on the highest peak, smug in defiance, and then would start descending down, reluctant of retiring, receding its achievements, struggling to keep up with the pace of time as long as it could, resistive of the change, and would meet the horizon at the other end. The dice would be reversed.
Every day, it came up with an intent to understand its defeat and then to conquer it; to renovate the ephemeral into eternal. Every day, it summed up, instead, straggling here and there with nothing, nothing at all, except the helluva gloom, the effusive confusion. It wasn’t any God; it was merely a mortal kept from a clear vision. Something had exorcised it – teaching not to see, not to face the failure but to construct a fair logic – following a humane approach – in justification so as to traverse the same path, the same rut for an eternity, making it perseverant.
I was still in bed; still trying to dream.
Sun’s perseverance was an outcome of stupidity: when one doesn’t know what to do next and keeps on doing things that he is habitual to, putting no extra energies, no further thoughts; when one doesn’t know what to fight for and goes on fighting only for bread – the minimal for survival. The cause behind its perseverance was stupidity – foolish, stark and dire stupidity.
Our society ran on a set of principles, deemed necessary for its proper functionality, usually an outcome of evolution. Following the laid path, a general conformity, is one among them. That was why the perseverance of Sun was highly praised not only in religions but also in the general, obvious, mundane life.
My flat was in the heart of the city; nested at the top of a grandiloquent building, it remained unaided but was fortunate in finding few acquaintances to satiate the gulf of loneliness surfaced while saying at the top. On left it had Dixit’s and on right Sinha’s apartment. Two more were there, but I have no remembrance if I ever talked to them or even saw them. Gradually, I started identifying myself with it; with its affecting capitulation, with its distressing silence, and with its impassive non-reluctance.
It had a long protruding construction, fixed tenaciously with its walls, attached with a hoary glassed door that opened inside. A continuance of steel rod, clung intricately with each other, whirled around the loge, offering fortification from falling down. It was a balcony of heart, letting me peep through my neighbors’ house whenever my hormones scrounged for few blissful glimpses.
It had come a long way, a long convoluted way, with me. Together we grew callous, dead to the worldly aspirations, numb to the holy reverence and ignorant to the sardonic sarcasm. I lent its quietness; it imbibed my compliance. Together we flamed, together we were deserted.
An immense jerk of acoustic pressure impinged in my ear drums like an abrupt blow of a harsh cornet made by a cab driver, outside the railway station, cajoling passengers, precisely at the time when you cross by. I opened my eyes. The shrillness prevailed in the air. I scoured for the source. Then, after some vain efforts, I picked my pillow up and there it was. My alarm clock! Lying indifferently, it giggled on me. I cradled it up and undid the alarm settings. It went mute, mewling its characteristic sound ‘tik-tak-tik’ and extolling ‘0815’ on its face.
Time to get up, I thought. I dislodged my blanket and stood up. My sleep was long gone, but my eyes were still in their fallacy denying the truth, abandoning their purpose that was to look out for light and path. I rubbed my fingers over them. By the time, they opened up; my room was flooded with trillions of photons manifesting their success over traditional laws. Fools! They were still in accord with the laws for then the law itself had asked them to triumph. I chortled and went to my laptop.
It resumed with ‘Jagjit Singh’
“Aisi aankhe nahin dekhi, aisa manjar nahin dekha…”
(never seen such eyes, never seen such a milieu…)
He went on, inundating my room with his sweet canorous voice, modulated with entailing tabla and guitar, fashioned in tune with the romantic hagiographic lyrics, and crescendos of her memories in chorus.
I was standing by the door scouring over the graffiti board to find a place to leave my note. A set of papers clipped here, another set fixed there. Among them I saw a scribble about a fashion show to be organized in the city auditorium recently. I focused on it and started hunting for famous names. Shayali Bhagat! Great. She was coming. She was the former Miss-Ind…
“Excuse me.” Someone interrupted me from behind. I budged my head slightly backwards and peered through my shoulder.
“Yes.” A pair of eyes, pride with legacy of startling beauty, stared at mine.
“Would you shift a bit?” Her pride spoke for her. “I am in a hurry and you seem to be staring at …”
“Hmm…ok” I didn’t let her finish and made room for her.
She left after scribbling something on the graffiti. My eyes followed her as if she were their true métier. They were chasing the light – their purpose of existence. Then she was gone. I looked around. I wanted to talk to someone about it. But, I found none.
I came out, crossed the road and walked to ‘Jain Sahib’s Pan Shop’, where I had parked my bike. I smiled at him and he replied with a cigarette. He knew my brand. I ordered for tea, went to my bike and sat upon that.
He was skilled in the art of brewing tea. The dexterity was palpable to my glossa. It tasted great. It was my greatest time pass – sitting beside the shop, puffing round rings out in the air, and sipping tea. It reminded me of my college days, sitting idly like minor reveries, gulping innumerable cups of tea and consuming god-knows-how-many packets of ‘Wills Navy Cut’. I chuckled slightly as I rounded my eyes aimlessly around the premise.
I was looking at her. Yes, it was she, donned in blue-denim lower and a red top. She stood by the front corridor of Indigo premise, waiting for someone. I couldn’t help staring at her. She looked dazzlingly beautiful as if an angel had descended earth and miraculously appeared to me. She wasn’t of earth ilk. She shone like the full moon, arousing my fidgety, denigrating Sun’s archaic talent with her skilled prowess. I bobbed in my imagery. She stood unknown to me, unknown to everything, glancing over her watch frantically.
“Is she waiting for her boy friend?” I thought.
“Go and ask her.” Something quipped on me.
“Shut up. She would not talk to me.” I replied, annoyed.
“Blah! Blah! You are a fool. All you can do is smoke, wait and create excuses for your inactions. No miracles manifest themselves in this way.” It said, angrily.
“You want more tea or what?” Suddenly, I heard Jain Sahib before me, wearing a weird look.
I retuned back to my senses. Was I talking to myself? How stupid! I shrugged so as to evince a rationale of my stupidity. It grinned sarcastically before waning away. I looked back.
She wasn’t there. I feared like losing something precious, very-very precious. Was that precious ever mine? I was behaving non-sense. I condemned myself. And then, in anticipation, I sieved again with more vigilant eyes around the proximity. Ah! My nerves came back to me. She was there.
“Shut the door at the face of an opportunity, and it would never knock you back. Why don’t you simply go?” It wheedled me from inside. Why was it doing such? Probably, out of urgency to fight for existence. It needed a conflict, and wanted me to ploy one.
I stood up, paid the bill, and unmounted my bike. I leaned back to see her once more. And before I could make any move, a boy who had his face behind the helmet and a girl whose head was wrapped in a grisaille stole approached her. I marveled and continued with my gaze at her. But now my target was apportioned into three. I kept my surveillance and they chatted.
Then, she left with them, still unknown to me, unknown to everything that happened on the other side of the road.
Jagjit Singh had gone silent. Perhaps, his tenure was ended and reels of past were finished. Every thing that comes is destined to leave some day; they can’t be stopped; none could ever stop them. This is the way things work here.
It was the paperwallah knocking at the door. Everyday, he used to clip the newspaper with the door-bolt and then would knock the door. It was in his custom, probably, to let the claimant know that his claim was answered. Every thing under the sun needed some sort of proof not to manifest something but merely to understand the nexus. The gulf would, anyhow, remain there, but if we could understand its theme then the alibi of its existence would make sense, and things would become more bearable.
Standing idly in my balcony, leaned with the iron maze, I looked at people on the road. I found every one aimless. No one knew his purpose; no one knew his path. Walking and walking – with no idea of the end – as if they shared a profound kinship with the concrete roads. Roads that had seldom replied; roads that were seldom relied. There stretched a series of tall, coherent pine trees, fixed at the ground alongside the road, bolstering their etymon and tolerating the wind flow. The leafage kept flicking with the wind but never did they abandon their roots, never did they elope with the air either. Double crossing! Poor wind, it was deceived. All its efforts to woo the leaves went haywire. It had to go ultimately. Alone. But it too was perseverant like the Sun.
“Nothing is permanent. Neither you, nor I; neither care, nor despair. This is how the plan is made. The conspiracy takes us by surprise; sets us in motion; then eventually settles us in rest.
“Isn’t it foolish, then, to deem the environs – the air surrounding us – permanent and harbor emotions, profound longings, for them? Isn’t it anserine to cage Love? Things that you fall onto must be finally fallen off.
“Love comes in suddenly; nurtures us thoroughly; makes us feel alive – intensely; and when we grow habitual to it, it abandons us. Leaves us suffering to understand our own self, for only in pain we value the pleasure. You don’t love a person; you love yourself, only yourself. It is only when someone kindles your inner spirit, inner strength and your inner demons, and connects you with your long lost self that you fall in love. But, certainly not with the person. Rather with his/her persona.”
When exactly, do you fall in love? Any clue? Can you pin point the moment where you actually fell? And, can you manage to formulate a rationale for this fall? And, why do you call it a fall? Why you never say: you rose in love? Is love so low, so down, so condemned that without falling you can’t experience it?
While I was thinking of all this, I tried to conclude if I, myself, had fallen down. Was I in love? I had hardly seen her. I didn’t know her words much. I was all aloof of her world. How could it be love? It might be some infatuation, or attraction, or anything, but certainly not love. Love needs time and space to mature. But, it’s always a spark that inflames the mysterious light of love. I couldn’t deny that spark, though. And, then, that night I couldn’t sleep.
I managed her phone number from a common acquaintance – and there was a big story behind it and entailing after it; leave that for the time being – and called her in one sultry midnight. It wasn’t a deliberate attempt; I was just fumbling through my phone book and paused at her name; broke for a while and then, simply, called her; nothing pre-decided; thinking of listening to a female voice as a peaceful bliss amid the raging night. The moon was fed up of the heat and had gone somewhere far from the sky above me, and the stars too accompanied him. And the whole day in office, with the entire world’s tension there, had surfaced in some more vexation. All the worries were there in my share while I sat in angst; alone, down and blue.
She picked up and said something, I didn’t understand exactly what. The heat and the sweat had glued the phone to my ears and scattered the sound. I didn’t reply, waited. Then she said, louder, “Hello” and I disconnected.
It was a mere missed call for her, but for me it was the beginning of several longing nights, that were to be followed. The shrillness and the sweetness of her voice had a mixed effect on me. I longed to hear more. But couldn’t attempt.
After, two or three days, I called her again, this time more resolutely. Well, this time I talked. She was indifferent, impassive; and I impatient, hurried and hasty. My words, and my thoughts, divagated like an adolescent dream. And when I tried controlling them, my legs started shaking. How could I tremble while talking to a girl? Who was she? I wondered and said this to her. She laughed, as if I were trying to flatter her. Boys, usually, do such a stupid, naïve stuff, intentionally, as if their being stupid would free the girl’s heart from the stringent worldly threads. This was a true lie that men spoke; women knew, but, normally, denied. What they didn’t know was that a lie might sometimes happen to be a truth– an intense, impeccant truth.
And with her indifferent laugh, my innocent trembling, her melodious voice, my frequent concern, her habitual care, my occasional despair, her past, my future, and with our – together and shared – present, my story began.
Then on one day, she had an uncommonly hectic schedule – early college, then lunch, then some sleep interrupted and broken by sporadic phone calls, then evening stint with her fashion-designer aunt, then late birthday party, then home, then Chili, and then me. But she was, unusually, in good tempers. She went for an evening walk with Chili around the proximity of her home searching for the hidden moon and pondering how less time she had spared there recently. Life had articulated in such a routine that her locality and her home lay deserted out of her sight. Today, it was the day to rekindle old flames, to reconnect with trifling things of life. Chili ran here and there, in search of a muse, in search of something anew, afresh, complex and passionate and she followed her in search of stability. Life was balanced, and I mute. She broke the silence, asking why I was so quite.
If I had talked, wouldn’t I have meddled with the universal equilibrium that had matured consistent with her silence? I would have spoken something, rather asked something, and then, she had answered with a shrug, or a nod, or even with few words, and then another question, then another answer, and so on. Once the cycle is established, it takes efforts to stop it. And it leaves deep scrapes. Why to increase the entropy of the worlds and the heavens? So I was quite. But, even the silence has its toll. And sometimes, the cost swells so much that you can’t afford it. I had to speak, eventually.
“What do you think of me? Whatever I say, or commit, do you think, is just a pretension? Do you deem it all false?” I needed the answer. It was essential for my own poise. And it was the perfect time. She didn’t always carry such a good mood, ready for anything, with words all set to go out against any explanations expected or demanded.
“Sometimes, I do. How can someone continue along such a path, the too without any expectations? You know Seema said, you should better…” She initiated, and then paused. Perhaps, out of the confusion that every candid truth brings in along.
“Better… what?” I was desperate.
“Better keep your options open.” She continued. But soon, to my surprise, she suddenly asked: “how much substance Time has in your life?”
I wanted to explain that it was not like that; that though I had expectations, but I had convictions too of never forcing them upon her; that I too was normal like any other boy next door, but it was just that I loved her a little more than him, that I wanted to wait for her even without her confirming her coming to me; that I wanted to fight the galaxies for her; that I wanted to live for her, even if it meant living without her…
I had so much to say then, but she was curious for her question. I didn’t understand the purpose of that silly question. Anyways, I had to answer; perhaps more for myself than for her, probably this question wasn’t as silly as I was thinking it to be. It had a connection, may be, with something important to her. Was she worried if my commitments would stand the test of time? Or, did she fret about my stand, thinking it to be capricious against time. Whatever, I got to find an answer, suitable to suffice her doubts, and sufficient for my stand too. All I had, in my arsenal, to offer her was time. And a little space. And a few explanation. I used to feel smug about my own understanding of life; but all those knowledge weren’t helping me.
I commenced my voyage into myself. What was the thing that mattered the most to me? What was that that I would stand for against anything? What was my priority? I was young, approximately of twenty-four, with a prestigious degree, placed in a good position, in a good company that promised of a golden career ahead, with a past, with a promised future, and with – roughly – a good present. Ideally, what could it be that I could go after?
I thought, and thought. And only she was there in those thoughts. I had to make a decision then; to confirm her importance in my life; to answer: why on earth I was mad after her?
She was beautiful, stunningly gorgeous, exquisite, no doubt, but this could hardly be the reason. Beauty stands reasonable as far as temptation, and only the temptation, is concerned. It can’t carry the relation for long. It can’t carry the lunacy for long. And I knew my stand; though I could never explicate – not even to myself. It wasn’t beauty. It might initiate the stuff, but certainly, it can never support a tough stand. It might ignite the spark, but you need something else to keep the fire – that is wind, furious wind. I wondered what it could be. Nothing, absolutely nothing came to me. But she came, and she only came.
Then, I stopped. My face contorted, my voice vanished, and my eyes straggling here and there. They didn’t know where to focus, what was it that I wanted to see. “Some things in life are best unexplained.” She had averred once. But then, I had resisted in letting our life go out of my own control. You needed to know what you are up to, and why? True, it was then, but not now.
Life is an equation. Simple or complex? That depends upon how many questions you ask. Her question was certainly there to make it more complex for me and for her too.
“Time is important, but priorities and principles are beyond it.” I said and, then, went on with my usual volley of words explaining all the parameters, constants, and variables of life. I uttered for long. She waited patiently for me to finish off. And when I went empty, she chuckled.
I might have said something that she didn’t expect. This was the one aspect that life always confused me with. It gave us words, but probably they weren’t enough to express everything you think or you feel. What could I do, how could I fight when I had no weapon? And she started laughing, sorry restrained laugh – chuckling. What could it mean?
“So for you everything trims off where your understanding ends.” She said, her words mingled with her broken laugh, and modulated in a comic, sardonic tone, and with the sense of abstraction that lay back, beneath her laugh.
Lack of words, lack of eloquence, whatever, but I couldn’t convey what innately I thought I had to. She was misled. I thought, once, of ceasing further infringement on the topic, but, wouldn’t that be against what I think they must be. I had to make her understand, not to compliment her laugh with my words, but to prove – myself – that my stand did have a role in the vast, evasive inequality of the universe. I had to tell her that it’s not the understanding that makes a relation; it’s the relation that makes an understanding, that her doubt, and her laugh, is not the end of it, it is exactly where I would commence my journey. We err only out of ignorance, thence, I could never ignore her slightest reactions, her least actions. I wanted it to be free from any contamination; I wanted it to be pure, untainted and pristine.
I started. But precisely then, when you start something important, you are interrupted. Universe takes time in accommodating your trivial existence in its significant one. And you better respite the fight till some better time, for then, no matter, how much you strive, how feverishly you strike, it would remain indifferent. I stopped, saving my energies for later confrontation; and she went to the kitchen as her mother wanted her there.
What way life runs? To which end? Through which equation? Commitment, passion, security or condition? Everything remained unanswered; even the importance of time.
I guess, then I went back on the way home – though, I don’t remember, today, through which way, but it must be home, where else could I have gone? Straggling along the continuous series of pine trees, I was wallowing profoundly into something. And, that must have been something trivial, irrelevant; see, I don’t remember that too. My thoughts were digressing like an abrupt, furious wind current while my legs weren’t able to balance my weight appropriately, and my hands had announced a rebellion against the ethnic correlation between legs and them. The gestalt was lost. The tradition was lost. That’s why people choose wine, when they are forsaken by life, by love. It helps in loosing the tongue and in breaking the tradition – a tradition that forces you to become a good, well-mannered, chivalrous man.
It’s the tradition that connects our past with the future of the universe. It might be touted as a boost to growth, but, on the other hand, it is the culprit of all the human fall downs, be it war, be it crime or be it love. It’s the tradition that teaches us how to behave and, above all, how to react. I had lost my connection.
No link with past; No hope for future. Every single neuron cognized in complete contrast with the other, pushing my cerebrum into a mixture of juxtaposition of dichotomy. I fumbled deep inside the complex world, and what did I avail myself? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I remained alone, all alone, with all the humanity surrounding the air around me, I was alone.
Eventually, I arrived near the labyrinth
staircase that whirled up along an old rusted iron pole, betraying its indigenousness, harping over its own fate, but still, in service to humans. I winked at it with pity, but couldn’t muster courage enough to offer my gratitude. I remained silent, wondering how it too had to suffer through its life. It had a part of my past in its present, and probably, in its future too. I looked up high at the jutting balcony; that too was silent, sad, pensive. Every thing was changed, as if to reflect my mood, my debacle.
I opened the door; it screeched in reluctance, as if I were anew here. Was I? I yanked and entered, ending all the further altercations. My room was drowned into dire silence. No music, no susurration, no noise. Nothing to harry; nothing to merry. The world was still in here; it had nowhere to go; it had nothing to change for. I lay down on the bed slowly, as if it were a fiddling victim waiting for its summon and my behaving hasty would ruffle its crease and would interrupt its integrity. I didn’t want to create anything that could anyhow resemble me.
Then, after an eternity, night fell down, with all its swanky modishness, it tried to lure the earth. It had a limited resource and even more limited time. And everything was needed to be done in time. When you rush, you only end up confused, nonplus and often dreaded, and all your plans, strategies go haywire. The night had confronted the same fate day after day for millions of years, yet it kept coming to the same path, with the same hope, same dream.
Night was, perhaps, merely a foster to Sun’s rotten path filling up the gap that it left during the dark, just to accompany the earth in its loneliness. Night was a surrogate accompanyist.
There was a connection between the Sun and the night, taking each other’s place in turn without any ambiguity. What a great understanding.
I thought, that two minds similarly could be very well connected, as if in unity? Knowing each others’ wandering thoughts, understanding each others’ interpretations, respecting each others’ beliefs; they could be sound threaded like sun is to earth, or say I am with her. I had a dream: to dream of her. And she had a dream: to dream of nothing.
She was prepared to leave everything on time. Equivocally awarding her surrender, she had once said: “you know, sometimes, it drives me off, and sometimes, it brings me to the righteous path that I had desired. It plays with me – it gives me everything, from hope to anguish, from dreams to despair, everything, keeps me twisting, sometimes this, sometimes that; but never does it talk of stability. It never leaves me alone, to think, always ready with something anew. I know, then, it’s bogus; but I don’t know how to bawl it off. I have no weapons to fight with it. I try sometimes bare-hand, but then it evinces such a poignant face that …” Her words trailed off in a hollow and never came back. I wondered if she would go in tears. And then, with some fluid taking away her choke, she would again continue. But, instead, she surrendered to the void. Her eyes fixed in vain, without rolling, rigid unto the boundaries laid by dark kohl; Her fingers clutched together as if to keep them from tearing apart onto the path of dichotomized confusion; and her hairs, as if to complement the stillness, fluttered with the air, saying that everything is normal, under control, and according to a plan.
I knew this. I knew what she thought of when she ran late, which she usually did, even today – questioning herself: “Why am I going to see him?” Mine was the similar case. I was luckier, though; I had a terra-firma ground – I knew that she loved someone else, that she was with him for last four years, that she had past commitments, and that she still loved him, and that he was still around. It wasn’t a self derived fallacy to fool myself; it was a truth, a logically entailed solid truth; she herself had told me this – about her past, and the present, and the planned future. Then, even after knowing all this, I went to see her, putting the enigmatic “Why” off at bay.
While she was all open to me, I was little veiled. She never asked, and I never told. For me then, her concerns came prior to mine. And, as if to renounce my self, I never bothered her with my Whys. Instead, I went all ears whenever she had anything, let alone her silence. If the decision was necessary, then any one of us could make it. It didn’t matter who choose, because anyhow it would affect both of us; both would have to conform eventually. She had more at stake, so she could have that luxury – the power to decide three fates.
The problem was our past that imbued its lineaments into us, and we were scared of the risks involved. It had dug the gulf.
Over that gulf, though, there was a bridge that connected us. It was our intuition that was slowly transmuting into our understanding. And they often were just. Right or wrong? I could never conclude, but they were just, at least for the two of us.
First panoramic foretaste of this nexus, I had, was when we first saw each other – officially, of course. It was monsoon. Sporadic rains, dark clouds, every now and then thunders, and modest quivering cold, all had appeared garnering the prior sweaty milieu. We had been talking over phone for almost fifteen days, before we decided for the long due – part due to her semester examinations, part due to the resistance of facing the unknown – rendezvous. But then with a little push against the traditions, we settled it down. CCD (Café Coffee Day) was decided; sharp at six thirty in evening.
The Alchemist had asserted that if you desire something very strongly then the whole universe would conspire in helping you. Your desire is the metaphor of the desire of the universe. But for me, the whole universe had conspired against. All symbols were cornered out. In the evening, it started raining crossly, something that was obvious of the season, something that you would often have considered innocent, though, but I found it working against my wishes. When you can’t force changes, better let them go themselves, and inure until indifference.
Somehow, despite the heavy rains, I managed to get to the place. I knew that she wouldn’t be there; how could she have come in such a rainfall; and how stupid was I even to expect such? Anticipating her obvious absence I went inside. I had to find a secluded place to sit and mull over but my eyes scoured the place, instead, in her search, pushing their will against the truth.
There was only a faint chance that she would come. Still, like an obstinate man, I sat down on the corner table, waiting for her, with the entire patience I could gather. I wasn’t ready to accept the universal will just like that, I mean, without even striking once how could you accept the defeat? I had been eloping for all my life, this time I had to stand. And I stood. Slowly, slowly the time was elapsing. I struggled using my tenacity with the fading hope; peeping out of the glass that was covered with water-droplets running down from the top, hastily emptying the space for the next drop – a typical quintessential of my fleeting belief. I sat quite, leafing pages of the newspaper I already had read in morning, watching every vehicle longingly so that I wouldn’t miss even a single moment of bliss that her surreptitious glimpse might bring, searching every face for her divine resemblance, and condoning to every new entrant through the door, through which everyone crossed but her.
I wondered if everything was a waste. Gradually, my fervor began to settle down, and for the first time I thought of forsaking the battle. It wasn’t difficult. Later on, I could accuse her and the rain.
Then, with the passing time, an uncertainty crept in. she had never seen her earlier; all I had known of me was my voice. Was it possible that she had come and had searched for me, meanwhile I would have missed her somehow, and then when she couldn’t locate me, went back? If it were the case; I certainly was unlucky – the most ill-fated man on earth.
My thoughts drifted over the possible possibilities, and soon I found myself lost in the quagmire of uncertainty.
I looked around the place, it was crowded; every square foot of the ground was efficiently consumed, some with singles, some with couples; some talking, some staring, some searching, some ogling, some waiting, and some wondering what to do – like me. And some more standing outside for their turn. Few lines came to my mind:
“But, together with this truth
there goes something more
I had waited and
One hour past, the clouds exempted me from their tyranny where I could do nothing but wait; and the phone rang.
“Where are you?” Her characteristic indifference overshadowed the concern that she might have shown, otherwise, for someone who was waiting for her, tolerating the will of the whole universe for last one hour.
“At CCD. I was supposed to be here. Right?”
“But it’s raining.”
She paused a little; thought of something; fought her circumstances; and then announced: “Ok, stay there for little more. I would come in fifteen minutes.”
That was our first triumph over the rigid traditions. It was then that I saw the consecrated spark amid the rain – a spark of love, and soon a dire repair clouded my thoughts. If it was a spark, a sensation, then would it too die away after some day like everything else, like us mortals? But those stark clouds did not last long; and as soon as, she came, drenched wet in rain, the universe ceased the heavenly battle and condoned to my resolve. While she went back, there was no rain, because there was no need of any conflict. We had overcome one, and none of them was needed any more.
If a desire can tame the whole universe, it was certainly of some rare ilk – it wasn’t normal, neither obvious. With those untraditional weapons of desire, I resolved to take on with the galaxies, and, above all, with our own dilemma. She had herself, and I had her. And together we had the dilemma, the inaction – something that revealed us everything, yet abetted not to accept the truth.
Everyone creates his past himself. It is a matter of selection, and thence a matter of your viewpoint. If you choose happy moments, your past would become euphoric; if you choose heartrending moments instead, your past would become painful. I had learnt how to write a blissful past. I favored making it a delight of its own; hence forgot the entire stern defeat, and remembered only the triumphant finale; I forgot the tormenting waits, and preserved only the moments of her arrival. It was the history of my past, that later spoke for me, fought for me.
That night I felt happy over my decisions. I wasn’t aware when I drew off of her thoughts, when the can emptied and when I resigned to sleep. But, the sense of content was omnipresent, during all the transition, everywhere, all around me and my flat.
All of a sudden lights went off and the hot summer night seemed nearing him. The dark glued, the sweat enveloped; the trails of little past lost. Trickles of sweat, his own sweat, came out not after a heavy toil but…just came out, made their way from every ups and down, every curve, every possible bending of his body, going nowhere…still going, like the trails of his past. Going nowhere…still going!
He moved sideways. Their entire course changed. He could control the flow of his sweat. But his past? Nothing could move his past, unyielding past, a stubborn sap, his past. Even the Dark – the great egalitarian – now, when the electricity is gone, with his own sweat drowning him, with his eyes turned mute and deaf, this Dark, this indifferent Dark is hiding everything from every other thing – could not hide it.
But it pacified it. Helped him in deferring the real confrontation. So, he loved the Dark. He loved what it made out of him. Made out of her. She was more ‘mine’ while in dark, he thought. The other truths, the other men, lay cornered. He loved it enveloping him, his existence, his love, everything. It was his ally. It hid his enemies. It was his friend.
He asked her once, “Do you love dark?”
“Nahin,” she replied, “I love the sunrise, the sunset.”
“But, after the sunset, it’s all dark. Isn’t it?”
“May be…whatever, I don’t like it.”
She probably misunderstood the Dark, saw it as a cover to the light, to the future of her, to the possible paths of her, but not as a balance, not as a friend, not as a pacifier, not as an ally.
He tried to make her understand. “It’s pessimistic,” she said.
“Seeking peace is pessimism? After all the fighting, a desire to return home is pessimism? Returning to your loved one…is it pessimism?” His confusion – ah! the confusion. What does he think, that Dark is his home, his lover?
The eternal silence. They say, words never get lost. Uttered once, uttered for all. But only words, not an utterance devoid of words. Not a gaze of her deep oneiric eyes. Not a tender movement of her svelte fingers against him. Not a light brush of her silky hairs on his face. They are not the words, they will be lost. But silence? It will remain. They are wrong, when they say, the beginning happened with a sound, ohm. It must have been the silence. The uncontaminated sound.
Between them, there was no contamination, no pollution. Between them, there was no sound, no word. Only little vibrations. Only little love.
She moved sideways. He listened to the ruffles, imagining the wrinkling crease of the bed sheet under her, cloths around her, hairs, falling on the pillow, layers in layers, like the stratum of river flow, violent, enraged, yet serene, calm.
She hissed, Ani, sounding dreaded.
Dread of what, he thought, of the Dark, of him, of their connection, of what? He couldn’t figure out except palpable quotient of fear.
She continued, “I like dark when I glimpse rays of hopes, serenity, calmness, when it supports me after a long tiring day. But it’s dubious, Janus-Faced, scissoring you from both sides, it takes away the sun light, I hate it then, it blanks my vision, I hate it then, it takes you away from me, I hate it then.”
“Dark is dubious, manipulating, like men. It is human.” He replied.
“I love holding your hands in dark, walking in a blind sea with you beside me, my head on your shoulder, my fingers holding yours, and you taking me away from…”
“…familiarity.” He finished.
She looked up at him, ensuring; now for the light had come she could see what his eyes held in themselves. Light brought back the reality. Fiction lay back. With familiarity returning back to them, they would now feel safer, at home. Unfamiliarity tempts you, but doesn’t retain you for long.
The tempting of unfamiliarity was not yet done. Some stones were still undone. Now perhaps was the time to tackle those unfamiliarities, to turn those stones upside down.
“Who did you write your poems for?” She asked, gasping on the first word, releasing on the last. In a kind of an ancient rhythm, poignant, concerned, ready for the answer, whatever.
“For myself perhaps…for none perhaps.”
“You mean that there is no girl behind them?”
“No. nothing.” He replied curtly, smashing those stones back to conceal the real point.
“What is it that keeps you tickling all the time?”
A stare. A confusion. A blank.
‘Lust is only skin deep; love is profound.’ They say in holy books.
You lose your sight, your vision along the path, but only if you retain the burning flame, retain the fire in you; you will reach your end. But how to keep that flame flickering? How to keep it alive?
“With a belief in your future, in your prospect, you can segue from nadir to zenith like you do in a roller coaster, smoothly, easily. And this keeps me on.” I smiled.
She winked at me, confusion flailing in her eyes, fingers glued together, hairs brushing against the vortex wind by the fall, face straight, lower lip part between her teeth part dropping outside, and the ecstasy drove me awry. Isn’t it her black, kohl eyes, her svelte gesture, lost countenance, divine beauty that steers me all the time? Isn’t it she, who keeps me on?
But truth is not always a truth, at least not always eligible for acknowledgement.
“Why are you staring at me like this?”
Because I loved her. Because I lusted her.
Love? or lust?
What’s the difference?
‘Lust is only skin deep; love is profound.’ They say in holy books.
She moved to gape at water falling steeply from the hill, all the way down to meet earth, happily, wistfully, obediently – destined to demise.
Like I do. To meet her.
Do I fall? Do I rise?
Or do I just travel at level?
“ah…Animesh. You and your thoughts. Now what is it?” she shot suddenly finding me lost in her revere.
“Nothing… The body and the soul. Are they really apart?”
“Yes. Body is only skin deep; soul is profound.”
The circle is complete.
So body is lust; soul is love? Now, what drives me?
The body or the soul?
The lust or the love?
“Do you know what you want from your life?”
“Money. Fame. Name. This. That…eh?”
“No, I can live without money; what’s more important is ‘name’, the identity.”
“And how do you define an identity?”
She is mute.
I continue. “I guess it’s a kind of recognition, something that people identify you with.”
“A frame across the real you. Isn’t that an identity?”
“yeah…may be.” She stuttered after a long. Thinking takes the better of you. And renders you abstract in no time.
“So, which frame you want?”
“Look, it doesn’t matter which frame I am caged into, as long as I love doing what I am doing, and I do it in the best possible way.”
A stare. She makes me cold all through, with just one stare, just one. And I go numb, voiceless, motionless, clueless.
Questioning life. That’s what appeals me most these days. Different. That’s what I want to be. Iconoclast. That’s what I want to be called.
And I want her to understand how hard I am trying, how focused I am. I want her to see how am I writhing inside – how am I controlling my energies that threaten to rip open me every time I try concentrating them upon something – how I am living in truce with myself, the dangerous war just a moment ahead. I want her to know that I am not weak.
Life’s plans, its expectations never meet the expense life demands.
And you die meeting ends.
And you just harp over the identity, all your life, the recognition you want to earn.
Dreams never meet lives.
“What do you want from your life, Animesh?” The barrel is now towards me.
“Nothing…” I choke, grope for definitions that she had denied, for words lost in dictionaries, in brains of men, and with a little effort, and a poignant stoke, “…I only want to kill the anonymity that has fogged me.”
Once upon a time, when I was still a kid, life was easy to me. Little did I ask of life, little did it charge me.
Now, things are different.
I want a hell lot of things. And I have nothing for mortgage. How will I do it? What would I put for security? Luck or toil?
I don’t understand. She doesn’t understand. And life goes on, time passes through.
“I want to become a writer. Few months back, I had started writing a novel, I worked upon the synopsis, prepared the blue print, wrote some hundred pages. Few publishers were interested too…but I couldn’t finish. I abandoned it in middle.”
She gaped at me; perhaps, thinking how weak I was, and that’s not true, in letting go of things, of my own decisions, own convictions and…my own future.
Doesn’t life do same to you? You never call life weak. Life simply loses the belief in you. I lost my belief in my book. And I quit.
‘Girls want men who are focused, passionate.’ DP‘s famous sermon, ‘so, if you are not, pretend to be one.’
Pretensions…ah! To pretend, you need to know the difference between the ‘original’ and the ‘fake’. You need to know yourself. Do I know myself?
I steer the topic into a totally different territory. “You are very normal. Everyone I see is abnormal these days, trying to pretend to be someone different than oneself. Totally different! They would ride a roller coaster just to prove that they are not scared. They would commit their love only to prove…something, I don’t know what, why, but they do it…Tell me, can you really prove that you are in love? That you understand someone?”
Silence. It is now perpetual between us. I think she is immersed into my words; she thinks…I am not sure…perhaps…how abstract, or stupid I am. Either way things are set and done. And no words are needed.
“…and I appreciate the fact that you are normal. The best thing anyone can have.”
And I look at her, chuckling.