Thursday, 25 August 2011

leap of faith

I've made an image of lovers over the years
As I've watched them all fall, around me:
My closest confidantes, most distant nemeses.
Acrobats flying through the air,
Lithe and graceful, sometimes eyes closed,
Some eyes are wide open.

They leap, they land on their feet,
On their heads, backs, elbows and teeth,
Like cats or clumsy hippos.
Some land on shards of glass that were waiting,
Pointing at the heavens.

Some have partners, ones which help,
Firm, warm hands which hold them up
As they gaze into pools of coloured pupils.
I've seen warm hands grow slippery, moist:
Once steady acrobats go flying to the ground.

I have to applaud.
We, the ones sitting on the benches,
Have to cheer them.
I used to think we were smart,
To watch them fall,
To help them up,
To never jump ourselves.
Now I know how brave they are.
Stupidly brave acrobats.

To close your eyes and jump:
Just to feel your heart soar,
The wind whipping past you in waves,
Like you are a bird and
There is no tomorrow.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


I did not realise I was thirsty
Till I came across an oasis.
Its fruit was not the most beautiful,
Succulent, sweet or breathtaking.
But it sucked me in,
Made me drink it up,
With each sip I got more dizzy.

I sit in its protective shade now, waiting.
Waiting for the time to come
When I must leave.
For my journey must continue.

But now that I have been to the oasis,
Will I always feel thirsty and think of its warmth?

Monday, 22 August 2011

time to say goodbye

**author's note: this was inspired by Margaret Atwood's "Happy Endings", and is an experiment in progress.**

Boy meets girl. It’s the oldest story ever, I thought to myself and scratched my lip.

Thunder rolled on the distance. 2.26 am, my computer blinked at me. I stared at the blank screen. See, I reasoned with myself, let’s not go there. It can only end in two ways – happy or unhappy. Somewhere within me a voice disagreed. Or maybe those were the rumblings of a stomach pressured by tuna and tiramisu.

How many ways can this damn story end? I scratched my lip again. This is where I look to Margaret Atwood for inspiration. ‘Happy Endings’, indeed. Lightning and mad, mad, furious thunder. As if the gods of writing were roaring at me. So many songs, poems, stories, books, novellas, haikus, sonnets, biographies, license plate numbers, legal documents, passports, birth certificates, phone bills, were based on love. So many. And here I was, a so-called writer, staring blankly at a screen, wondering what the fuck the ‘L’ word was about.

It was 2.30 am by that time. First I had to pick a scenario – a couple, and decide how they fell for each other. Love or lust. Then came the biggie. How did it end? Miserable, or happily? Dreamily for one and suicidal for another or both the same? I sighed. Too many options, just too many options.


Oh wait, that’s a form of love too. Or an action.

This was going nowhere. I decided to shut up and not give in to my narcissistic authorial ramblings and just go with it. My first love story, here we go.
Present day, Bangalore, India

“Where is he, Rudy?”

“In there, painting like a mad freak.”

The trusty roommate had opened my ‘studio’ door a crack, about an hour earlier, just to make sure I was alright and not losing my mind, like I tend to sometimes. I had stopped painting and was staring at my product when Jaya came over. She walked into my tiny studio and stood behind me. I could smell her. Over the strong reek of acrylic paint and the whiff of my canvas. She smelt faintly of the oil she uses on her hair, some sweet shampoo or conditioner and a familiar floral perfume.

“Hmm. Is that me?” she laughed.

I turned around and looked at her. She froze in her tracks.

“What’s wrong, chooch?”

“Nothing, why? So, do you like it?” I asked gesturing magnificently at my creation.

“Yes. But what was that weird look you just gave me?”

“Come outside, I need to get out.”

Abey, tell me first what that look was!”

I wondered how to tell her what was going through my head. That I adored her, even though I had known her just over a month, that I was freakishly attached to her, and it scared the bejesus out of me. That I had many imaginary scenarios in my head where she would break my heart – today, tomorrow, next week, where she did it in the past.. all crazy scenes involving my heart being shattered.

“Nothing’s wrong. And no, the girl in the painting isn’t you.” I poured myself a rum and coke and offered her a sip. She shook her head, sat down opposite me and stared at me unblinkingly. She heaved a huge sigh after a few moments of pointless staring.

“Why won’t you talk to me? I don’t understand you, I spend most of my time wondering what your various looks mean. If you tell me what’s on your mind, I can understand you better, na?”

I stared at her in silence and smiled. I took a long sip of my drink and watched her light a cigarette. I didn’t smoke but almost everybody I knew did, so I didn’t say anything.

“Rudy, where’s your ashtray?” she yelled. He obediently walked out of the tiny excuse of a kitchen, where he had been making himself scarce, and handed her his makeshift ashtray, which was a tin box from Reebok.

Haan, so tell me.” She wasn’t giving up today, apparently.

I didn’t budge either. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, or what look.”

“Ok, then tell me about the painting.” I was taken aback. Firstly, I was surprised she even cared. Secondly, how the hell was I supposed to explain a painting done out of the very hyperactive imagination and intense feelings I was trying to keep hidden from her?

I mumbled my reply. “Whattt?” she asked. I heard Rudy snort in the kitchen.

“If I have to explain it, it isn’t a very good painting. In any case, you can make whatever you want of it.”

She sighed again. “You dipshit. I get that. But what do *you* feel about it, what were *you* thinking when you were madly at it with a paintbrush, not thinking about your pretty green shirt.”

I forgot about my shirt. I looked down at it. It was unsalvageable.

Accha, I think we should stop seeing each other.”

“Wait, *whattt*?” Rudy choked on something in the kitchen, as Jaya got high-pitched. I was also taken aback by myself.

“Rudy, get out! And Jaya… well…”

“Yes, well?”

“See, I’m leaving soon...”

“I always knew that, you dipshit. You told me that two nights after we met.” She put on a fake deep voice and rose to the occasion. “‘Hello hi, my name is Dhruv, I work at a gallery. I’m finally going to go study this year, I’m going to do a course in Graphic Design in Australia.’ You think I don’t remember???”

“Yes, well…..”

“Well, what? What happened, are you scared because you like me or something?”

I raised my eyebrows. Like her or something? I thought of the last time we had sex and how I was in absolute heaven because I made her so happy with my erm, performance. And I was amazed because I usually don’t give a shit how happy I make the girl, as long as I get what I want. The thought of Jaya’s eyes closed in ecstasy with her arms wrapped around my neck and her moaning my name.. well. Like her, it seems. I tried not to spit at her.

I took a deep breath instead and looked at her calmly. “Yes, it’s because I like you too fucking much, J. And I’m leaving and I don’t want you or me to get hurt.”

“Are you serious?”


“Why are you so scared, Dhruv?” She moved closer and held my hand. I felt myself melt into a puddle of green boy in shirt with paint.

“I don’t know. I just am. I cannot do these intense things, it’s too scary. And this is very intense. I can do one night stands and stupid, slutty women. Not smart ones with gorgeous hair who are actually decent to me. On top of that I’m leaving so let me just save myself the heartbreak, please.” We were both quite for a few moments as she digested what I'd said. "It's time to say goodbye, I think," I added quietly.

“I don’t want you to marry me or anything but let’s just spend some time together. Please? Or, take a couple of days and think about it. I think you’re just freaking out because things have gotten steamy the last few days. So relax.” She winked at me then got up, picked up her bag and started walking away. I felt my heart sink as I gazed at her gorgeous behind, her hair swinging from side to side.. it was damp and she had left it loose, but I know it covered a shapely waist, which was also covered by her red shirt. I shook myself out of it.

She looked back at me and said, “I’ll call you in a few days. Pick up, please. And relax. We’re in the same boat. I’m not going to hurt you.” And the 26-year-old singer/lawyer left the building. I forced myself not to watch her from my window, watch her leaving my apartment complex, walking to her car [parked a couple of buildings away] and driving away from me.

She didn’t call for four days. Those were the longest four days of my life. When she finally did call, I did not respond. I imagined her with the boy who left his Tissot watch by her window. A watch I would never be able to afford. I imagined her with the multitude of men she met through her music contacts – talented people who could write her songs and poetry and woo the hell out of her.

I never called Jaya back. She came by my apartment when I was not there and cried to Rudy. Poor Rudy. Then I called her to say it was over and I wished her the best. She cried over the phone. I felt like crap but knew I was doing it for a reason.

Two months later, I left for Melbourne. I still think of her on and off. She is probably fucking the brains out of some Bangalore-based creative types, holding his hand and smiling her warm, sunshine-like smile at him. Lucky bastard. I am waiting to find the Australian equivalent of her.

For those who want a happier ending: conclusion #2

She didn’t call for four days. Those were the longest four days of my life. I imagined her with the boy who left his Tissot watch by her window. A watch I would never be able to afford. I imagined her with the multitude of men she met through her music contacts – talented people who could write her songs and poetry and woo the hell out of her.

When she finally did call, I cried. I actually cried. I, Dhruv Shankar, womaniser and drunkard and emotionally stunted painter, cried. Because a girl did not call me for four days. Jaya was very touched. We made sweet, sweet, very slow love and I got even more attached to her. I still freaked out about it, but she got used to my strange ways.

Before I left for Melbourne, I even worked up the nerve to admit that the ‘L’ word had somehow gotten involved. Love, not lust. She smiled when I told her, and said she knew when she saw the mad painting I completed some weeks earlier, unmindful of wearing one of my favourite green shirts.

We broke up when I left, but I had a feeling I would come back for her. We stayed in touch. We grew distant when I got busy with work, making ends meet, studies and acclimatising to a new continent. She dated a couple of other guys. One I vaguely knew, back in Bangalore.

One year and seven months after I left, I returned to Bangalore and called her. We met the next day, at a coffee shop, where she sobbed into my red shirt [much to my embarrassment but also to my delight] about the last boy she dated – a stupid sod of a Telugu boy who hit her. When I looked into those tear-filled deep brown eyes again that day, in a crowded coffee shop, I was a goner. And I think she knew it too.

For those who want a more realistic ending: conclusion #3

She didn’t call for four days. Those were the longest four days of my life. I imagined her with the boy who left his Tissot watch by her window. A watch I would never be able to afford. I imagined her with the multitude of men she met through her music contacts – talented people who could write her songs and poetry and woo the hell out of her.

Four days became fourteen and then became forty. I was heartbroken. I, Dhruv Shankar, womaniser and drunkard and emotionally stunted painter, was actually heartbroken. I left for Melbourne with a burning hatred for all womankind in my heart. I slept my way through my first year at university with any woman I could find, and eventually the memories of her scented black hair and the mole below her left breast left me. It took a while, though. And I met a brilliant Malaysian-Indian girl named Sam. We dated steadily for eight months before we tired of each other. Sam and I still remain friends though.

I lived in Australia, between Melbourne and Brisbane, for fourteen years. I met my wife there, an American with brown hair and piercing blue eyes that could see right through me. Jennifer. We lived in poverty, got married against my parents wishes, had one child by mistake and nearly split up because we could not handle it. When Jen went to America “for a break”, I followed her after a miserable, aching three months. And I got her back. We made our second child in her parents’ home in Birmingham, Alabama.

Jen, the kids and I moved back to Bangalore finally when my parents got too old and I worried about them. They had forgiven me for marrying an American the instant they saw their first grandchild, you see.

Years later, when my son Mirav brought home his third girlfriend, I thought of Jaya again. Fleeting thoughts of where she was, what was she doing, and I forgot about her. The girl looked a lot like Jaya. I never did find out why she didn’t call me. I wondered about it for a few days, the next time I met the girl. Then, thankfully, Mirav broke up with her, and I never thought of Jaya again.