Wednesday, 11 January 2012
I took her hand. It dissolved into colours – purple, red, violet, maroon, indigo, auburn, orange, amber. The amber of candlelight in my room and caramel, the caramel of hair that did not belong to me. Her hand was still in mine, dark brown eyes speckled with deep chocolate specks that shone. It shone brighter than the candles.
Smooth skin, short breaths, long strokes, she did not utter a word. Neither did I. She was not real after all, it was just a magic trick in my head that I did not want to let go of.
I held on tight, never letting go of her hand. And we flew. Over the polluted skies of the metropolitan city, over the heads banging at an outdoor rock concert, over the speeding lights on the highway, billboards advertising make-up and new movies, over all of the mundane things that made up my life without her.
Hands still clasped, we were back to the beach. This time there was no moon leading the way, it was just her silent feet on the wet sand.
Of course I remembered, how could I forget?
There was suddenly the sound of drums, beating consistenly, like a heart. Bu-bup. Reminding me that there was a clock somewhere, I did not have her for very long. The beat got faster.
I turned her around so she faced me. We did not speak. She came in closer, wound her arms around my neck so that one was in my hair, the other was splayed against my back. She smiled that smile of hers, it shone in the dark. And she kissed me. I felt myself melt under her touch, like I always do, and always will, even in my dreams. Now, only in my dreams. The beating of the heart-clock returned.
I was still deep in her kiss, the smell of the sea mixed with the distinct smell of her skin, her conditioner and the lotion she used on her body. The beating got louder, and my arms went around her waist, pulling her in. She was in a dress suddenly, she had been in jeans earlier. The dress flapped against her caramel legs as she stood on tiptoe, smiling into my mouth.
Midnight blue, I then knew why it was called that – such a dark blue, it was almost black, but for purple racing clouds in the sky. She always did love purple. So I did not know whose dream it was, mine or hers. Mine, since she had probably moved into other realms, making new colours elsewhere, with people she never dreamed of meeting.
I did not want to let her go. The sparkling eyes met mine in such joy that they were sad. No words. Our foreheads rested against each other’s.
‘Don’t go,’ I said.
Her mouth pursed, her head lowered, the way it always did when she tried not to cry. I ran my hand across her collarbones, she took my hand and placed it over her heart, then kissed my forehead.
‘Don’t forget me,’ she said, slowly loosening her grip.
‘How can I?’....’Come back soon?’
She had started moving away from me, the coldness gradually set in. First her arms were not moulded to me, running through my hair, fingers gently putting pressure on my scalp the way they did when she tried to relax me. Then her skin became separate from mine, our hips were not touching, her breathing did not match mine. I did not feel every emotion that ran through her. And she moved away.
‘Come back? Of course. Where else will I be except with you?’
‘Always?’ I asked.
‘For as long as you want.’
My eyes flew open.
The air-conditioner was running, it was cold, my bladder was full. I wanted to go back to sleep. No, I wanted to go back in time. I looked at the clock – 2.50 am. My mind raced. Seventy three days or so. 1,762 hours. I nearly started weeping. I could smell her on my pillows, from seventy five or eighty days ago, when she would come over, love me, listen to me, hold me.
I wanted to fly with her all the time. But of course, I couldn’t.
Monday, 9 January 2012
I watched it from my window, with a cup of coffee warming my hands. “It could be the last, you could get run over by a drunken bastard tonight or go blind and never see another sunrise again,” my roommate remarked as we both stared at it and I voiced my cynicism to her.
“That could happen any other day of the year too, ya?”
And we both went back to sleep for a quick nap before work.
That was a bad idea.
In New Delhi, winter is awful. No central heating, lack of warm water if you share a flat with two women, and one of them washes her hair... the list goes on. Especially for one who has been brought up in balmier weather. Much balmier weather.
According to the BBC weather website, it was 24 degrees Celsius in my home city. Delhi was at nine degrees.
I woke up late, to no hot water, had to heat water just to wash my ass, and brushed my teeth, washed my face and armpits in freezing cold water, cursing the roommate who washed her hair that morning, throughout the painful process. Then I doused myself in Kylie Minogue's latest fragrance and ran.
The normal route to office involved a short auto rickshaw ride, a long ride in the subway, and then I’d have to hop into another auto.
Obviously that morning I did not have time to do all that. And no self-respecting auto driver in the Indian capital wanted to drive from Chittaranjan Park to Gurgaon in peak morning traffic. I couldn’t really blame them.
“We can share this auto if you want,” one creepy dude told me after he’d seen me unsuccessfully try to talk seven auto drivers into getting me to Gurgaon.
“How the fuck will you get an auto to Gurgaon?” I asked him. He demonstrated – the Delhi way. By offering the driver four times the normal amount of money. And let me tell you, even the normal amount of money is obscene.
I declined the scintillating opportunity to share an auto with a dweeb. Yes, I said dweeb.
I even heard another guy laughing at me from a tea shop across the road. He’d been watching me too, and saw the showoff with the money. I made a face at him before setting off on my such-a-brisk-walk-it’s-almost-a-jog to the train station.
I turned up at office an hour and half late. After having left my phone in an auto. Disastrous end to a perfectly normal year, somewhat disproving my theory. ‘No, this also could have happened on any other day,’ I thought.
It got somewhat better when I got a call from a girl who had found my mobile phone in the auto. She must have been the passenger after me. I was so relieved I almost cried. My precious Blackberry, with all my 1,674 contacts, my emails, notes and whatnot would be returned to me later that afternoon during her lunch break.
Since I’d turned up to work ninety minutes late, I had no lunch break. I was still phone-less at 4 pm, missing a ton of “hey, what are you doing for New Years Eve” calls and messages from clients. Strangely I wasn’t in a rush to get it back.
I’d already been wished by my parents the night before. “Jaan, Mrs Mehta’s son is back from Yale Business School... We met him last night, he’s very smart you know, he’s also a little creative like you. He plays the ghatam!....” so on and so forth. Somewhere in there was a new year greeting.
Monisha (of course her name was something pseudo-arty-socialite, I thought to myself) was busy and had asked a very reliable colleague to return my phone to me at Coffee House at 6 pm. I wondered who else was not rushing back to the city for New Years Eve plans and was returning a mobile phone to a stranger at 6 pm – a creepy stalker or someone who believed in karma, had done something really bad in 2011 and wanted to redeem himself. Because good people did not exist in New Delhi, the most corrupt city in the world. The galaxy. The universe. You get my point.
I sat at the designated meeting place, waiting for my king size latte. And the guy, who was obviously was late. What if I had plans, I thought grumpily, and took out the latest Murakami book from my bag.
I looked up when the coffee arrived and saw the guy from the tea shop across the road that morning. He was on his phone. He saw me, grinned and came over, plonking himself in the seat opposite me. I raised my eyebrows.
He put my Blackberry down on the table, while still yelling at someone about a financial transaction gone wrong.
I stared open-mouthed. My hometown was a small city where coincidences happened. Delhi was like the New York of India – these things did not happen.
“I’d ask you to buy me coffee in return for this, but now I’m thinking dinner,” I heard him say after he'd finished his phone call.
I looked at him dubiously. Pat came another line, “You can’t even say no now, I have your phone number.”
He wasn’t really very attractive. Maybe an inch taller than me, in black pants, white shirt, carrying a bag shaped to fit in a laptop and files – not like the dreamy, artistic men I’d dated when I was young(er). Following which I was single for four years.
“Sameer. My name is Sameer.” He held out his hand.
“Gayathri.” I mumbled back, shaking the offered hand.
We spent four hours at the coffee shop while he tried his various witticisms on me. I don’t think I realised what time it was till we were told the store was shutting. 10.20 pm.
I got his number and got company on my way home. Of course he lived in C R Park, he was having tea right across from my apartment in the morning.
I’d like to say something like “....and that’s how I met your father, kids”, but honestly, even though he may have swept me off my feet a bit eight days ago, it’s only been eight days. It could have just been a perfectly normal end to the year, not the esoteric beginning to the story of my times with a man who could be the love of my life.
Though I wouldn’t mind that, he seems to be a pretty good kisser.
Friday, 6 January 2012
The last few times we’ve been together, I’ve been bracing myself for upcoming changes – travel, work, studies. It’s always been logical, practical, rational and well thought out. As I am prone to be.
This time, I’m still in the middle of a big change, things expand and contract constantly around me and within me. Every single day. Which is not a bad thing. If you’d told me last year exactly what situation I would be in the next time we were together, I may have been a little worried. But this can be pretty fun.
I’m not asking you for much, January. I’d just like a little calm, from myself mostly. I can’t always be perfectly rational and unfeeling. The two voices in my head are still at loggerheads, almost everyday. Please make them stop. I know it’s been four months, and my formula hasn’t worked. What can I say? I’m not always right about myself. So let it go this time. And give me a little bit of peace so I can enjoy myself some more. I’m not going to be here for very long. My ass will return to the motherland and fall into a bucket of other people’s words and others’ needs and feelings and advice and love all over again. Which will be lovely, yes, but what about me? Anyhow, point being, please calm the voices in my head a little bit, and give me some respite so I can write and live and feel and drink and make merry in general. I’m tired of being rational. In this case, it doesn’t appear as though I have much of a choice anyway, whether I like it or not. So a little of your magic would be appreciated.
If you’d like me to be logical, I want two things from you – a job, and more writing.
Otherwise, I’m fine, Jan. I’ve managed your coldness before, I think I can do it again (no, I’m not challenging you. Jaipur is a lot warmer than Scotland.) I’m glad I am where I am. It’s lovely. Most people are lovely, the ones who are not, I can handle because I’ve handled far worse. This is child’s play.
The trees don’t have any leaves on them now, but your cousin October was beautiful. I’ve never seen an autumn before. I should have probably taken more pictures, but I was too preoccupied trying to memorise those images and freeze them forever, rather than uploading them onto Facebook.
Sometimes on a clear day, like this morning, I can see the water, far away and cold I’m sure, but it makes me grin like an idiot everytime. And the skies – they’re surreal. Why is Scottish blue so much nicer than Indian blue? Not that I’m complaining.
Cider. Thank you for all the cider. And mulled wine. It’s heaven. No, really. Oh wait, is that the sound of you laughing? I’ve never heard you laughing before, I wasn’t sure. It’s a nice sound, you should do that more often. See, you’re not as cold as people claim you are. I knew we had things in common.
All those pretty dogs on the streets, those endless shelves of books I can pick up and read when I want, the colours of the fruits and vegetables, the smelly blue-veined cheese... I love those too. Thanks for helping me cook. Though I’m not half bad, if I may say so myself.
Right. Thanks for the esoteric bunch of friends I’ve managed to make. They’re really lovely. Normal people are so boring. These ones are as off their rocker as Ma and I are. Sometimes it really does feel like a home away from home. I know, how shockered are you right now?
So yes, I’m quite alright, Jan. Just a wee bit of help in the aforementioned departments of logic vs emotions, me against the rest of the world, etc etc and so on, would be most appreciated.
Your sister February isn’t so bad either, I’m sure I’ll be in good hands in another few weeks too. But I’d rather start working on my sanity with you if you don’t mind. Time and tide sure as hell aren’t going to wait for me.
Hmm, I think that’s all I really wanted to say. Thanks in advance for all the feasts and merry-making, the reunions with the esoteric ones, the writing I will be doing and reading, hopefully the job I will be getting, the clarity and peace I will be finding more of.
See you soon. Yes, sooner than I know, so you say. But next January seems quite far away. I hope things change, and some things don’t, for the better. In other words, even if I’m pining next year, I sure hope you have a damn good reason for making me pine-y and whine-y all over again. I mean, honestly, wouldn’t you be sick of it by next year?
Wait, is that you laughing again? Oh right, I maybe pining for Scotland next January, not sunshine and sambar. Shit.
Thursday, 5 January 2012
I write for sleepless nights, flashing lights,
Themed dreams, days of caramel and cheese,
Calm spirits, bubbles of joy, and tears that stream.
Measuring reasons, weighing them against each other,
But they do not balance.
Home is here, and home is far,
There will be pieces, little strips
Of myself spread in many places now,
Muscles pulling, hair strung,
Words left behind.
Mostly I write for peace
I can’t seem to find
Till I can smell you again,
Warm myself in your scent and your love.
Words will have to do for now.
Tuesday, 3 January 2012
Fear. Cold fear clawed at me as I stepped backwards.
Bozo was barking, whimpering, not knowing which direction to run in. I called for my mother, but knew even mothers cannot save their daughters from everything.
She saw it too, allowed me cling to her as her brows furrowed. I could see she was scared too.
“We have to leave.”
I nodded, not knowing what else to say, and ventured hesitantly towards the window. It was like it had never been there. I opened the window, touched the outside of it.
It was wet, not with rain. We lived on the second floor of our building, facing the beach.
I remember mostly images now – the wooden spiral staircase I will never see again, the freshly washed entrance to our building, an intricate kolam drawn in plain white on the washed ground. The sun shone bright when I looked from the main door of the building.
Barefoot, walking around the building towards the beach, colours changed radically. Grey and brown. There was almost no water to be seen, the dirty brown, almost sludge-like water that was there was normal, reticent, not coming very close.
I heard voices, and followed them. Volleyball. People were playing volleyball at that time. The only people on the beach. Laughter, screeches, giggling, chastising... they were teenagers.
The wind was what was abnormal before anything else. Almost as bad as the Scottish winds I’d experienced when I had lived there before moving back home.
Then the wind stopped. The sludge-water receded. For a long time.
The teenagers took no notice, raging hormones, bare skin, adrenalin rush and sweat.
But they heard it too, the low rumble as it approached. “It’s making a bigger noise this time,” one of the boys laughed in Tamil. Why were they laughing?
They ran away from the beach, stood towards the edge, close to where I was, and watched the brown sludge crash onto the shore. It was not as high as the earlier wave that crashed against our windows. It rumbled onto the cars in our car park and receded. I waited for the kids to laugh about that before one of them said, “Asha yengai?”
Pandemonium broke loose as they went in search of a lost Asha, probably dragged to sea by the sludge. Only the best of swimmers could handle the muck in that, let alone the strength of that particular wave.
The skies were dark, looming over my head, the wind had returned after the previous wave receded. We still have some time, I thought, remembering the brief tsunami-training we had received at our workplace some months earlier.
I made my way to my dance teacher’s house, which was a few doors down from ours.
Her husband, an ecologist, was sitting in his chair on the verandah, looking glumly at the sea.
“Didi’s inside?” I asked.
“Haan, Sanhita is inside,” he replied, not talking my ear off for the first time in my life.
She was standing on the other end of her house, looking at the sun, which by then had some clouds covering it.
“What are you going to do, Didi?”
“Leave. What else to do?”
We remained silent. Only when she sniffed I realised she was crying. I did not know what to do.
It was when I moved closer to her that I saw what she was actually looking at. The hill in the distance. A tiny excuse for a hall that was a little outside the city, towards the airport. It dawned on me.
“How will I take my mother? And Bruno? He’s old, his legs...”
Her mother had had heart surgery recently, a broken hip the year before. The dog had been with them longer than I’d been learning classical dance from her.
My phone rang. It could only have been my mother.
We looked at each other and she said, “Be careful. Call me if she needs any help. I know how scared I am for Sippy now.” “Where is she?” The daughter was never far from the dog, I guessed both of them were frantically packing in the garage.
She didn’t answer.
“I have to go...”
“Yes, please. Go. Be safe.”
I did something I rarely did, maybe after a performance, but never otherwise. She never encouraged obeisance and incessant touch of a guru’s feet, unlike many schools of classical dance. I knelt before her feet in acknowledgement of everything I had learnt from her. When I stood up, there were tears in both our eyes and we hugged.
I turned around in the direction of my home, one I would never see again.
(author’s note: this is a re-telling of a very vivid dream I had recently)