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Nirvana

Catharsis is Nirvana.

Cave drawings. Parchments heavy with emotion. Journals soaked in pale ink and vivid memories. An envelope braving the world in search of another. Splashes of paint rebelling against grey walls.

Black letters on a white screen spilling from my fingertips.

Posted in Musings

P And Me

The most toxic anxious-avoidant relationship that every woman gets into has got to be with her Period. P is that guy who starts out by being a total creep, who we learn to accomodate over time and later became obsessed over. We boast about him when he’s well-behaved and worry about him when he’s not. We schedule plans as per his whims, get stood up multiple times. We always keep an eye out for his arrival, and be prepared to take care of him when he lands without a moment’s notice. And don’t get me started on all the emotional manipulation.

Yes, I’m late. 😒

Posted in Journal

Pushing My Luck

I’m doing it again. Fooling myself.

On the one hand, I’ve stopped filling my hours with mindless engagement with YouTube video suggestions, since my brain positively identifies it as wasted time. But on the other hand, I’m hardly getting any work done. Most of my time is spent reading. Perhaps it’s the way society has always glorified literature – I do not feel ashamed about spending all my waking hours engrossed in a book. The discovery of the online web serial “Worm” on wordpress has me surging through the chapters for hours till some sense of fatigue settles into my eyes. The rest of the time has me gobbling down food – breakfast, snacks, lunch, snacks, dinner, all diffusing together in an amalgamated endeavour to let me pass time legitimately. You need food for survival, and it somehow feels justified to be filling my time between reading with food.

I feel good, though. Really, really, good. I have clarity that had been lacking for a long time now. I’m not on an emotional high, but that ensures that I’m nowhere close to a crash either.

I’m talking to myself again while riding my bike, and man, have I missed the company! Unknown to most, I’m quite fun to be around with inhibitions down, and, but for a few of my friends who’ve got a glimpse of the drunk me, I’m the only one who’ve had access to the full show. The quirky ideas, the jokes, it’s a whole sitcom up there in my head. I’ve missed that, sorely.

All that’s left for me to do is manipulate myself to get off the bed and actually get around to getting things done. It seems like more and more deadlines are springing up by the minute. One for June 30th, another for July 31st. Both exciting and interesting, if only I can get rid of the nagging feeling that I might be biting off more that I can chew. Hell, I haven’t even gotten around to the stuff I bit off two months ago.

Maybe I should just keep cutting myself some slack. Things have always had a way of falling into place just before stuff hit the fan, so maybe maybe I could afford to push my luck a little further.

Bread, nutella and mangoes, here I come.

Posted in Journal

Just ‘Cause

I text TR I love him, and he immediately rings me up thinking I’m planning to kill myself. I can’t help cracking up.

TR’s texts make me smile, and then laugh a little in that warm silly way we do when we feel the fierce glow of friendship emanating from someone. For all his frustrating ‘Sheldon-ness’ (TBBT reference), ridiculous self-praise, and the trying habit of weaving sex and condoms into the most random discussions “to fight against the stigma”, there is an odd sense of innocence and old-fashioned integrity about him that makes you refrain from murdering him. And then there are these moments when you absolutely love him for being a part of your precious circle.

This is the kind of relationship that can only arise from unnecessary conversations that run deep into the night, perhaps under the guise of studying together, when secrets spill from drinking a heady mix of moonlight and silences. There is a rare clarity that comes with sleeplessness juxtaposed against heavy night lights. We feel raw and infinite, and become willing accomplices in betraying our deep dark souls. And in doing so, forge unlikely bonds and bridges.

“Please don’t die”

It feels good to hear this from some people, even in jest. People who don’t necessarily gain anything in particular by having you stick around, who aren’t dependent on you in any way, whose existence doesn’t become an obligation for you to stay alive. Knowing there are people who wouldn’t want a you-shaped hole in the universe, just ’cause.

“Will talk tomorrow. Don’t worry, kal tak zinda rahungi.”

I’ll be alive till tomorrow anyway, I assure him, laughing.

Till tomorrow, and for weeks and years afterward, I hope; as long as I know there are people who vouch for a me-shaped existence, just ’cause.

Posted in Musings

All’s Right

I’m losing count of the number of drafts that have collected in my folder over the last few days. Whimsical moments, curious anecdotes, random thoughts.. I jot them down as and when they come along, serendipitously, but I do not feel like drawing them out. After what seems like ages, I do not feel the need to pour myself out on to the screen and create thick walls of words to hide my woes behind. I don’t feel the need to create in order to compensate for everything that crumbled within me.

All of them will see light in due time, but just not yet. I’m in no hurry. I am lazy and not listless. I love and am loved. All’s right with my world.

🙂

The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven—
All’s right with the world!

– Robert Browning, Pippa Passes

Posted in Journal

The Mornings After

It cannot be easy to live with someone with mental illness. I realise that on all the mornings after.

The mornings after I cry inconsolably for no apparent reason. The mornings after I keep asking MB if he’d be alright if I died. The mornings after my tears wet his shirt, or the pillow on his lap. The mornings after he tells me irritably that perhaps I shouldn’t have married him if I had plans of killing myself anyway, and then, after I pull away and retreat to a corner, calls me back to him again and hugs my tears dry. The morning after I snap at him for no real fault of his own, for being himself and not someone in my head. The morning after his tired fingers massage my forehead ridden with migraine for the millionth time. The morning after he preaches some obscure philosophy without any real idea about what I needed, without actually helping. The morning after I think to myself whether he would one day tire himself out listening to me, holding me, preaching to me, over and over again.

His words make no sense to me, and do nothing to heal my soul. He doesn’t understand my struggle. His frustration seeps through from time to time, no matter how hard he tries.

But every morning after, I am thankful to have someone who chooses to stay, no matter how hard it is.

Posted in Musings

The Hill We Climb… Together

I had two unexpected encounters with American history and politics the other day. A novel, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah and a poem, The Hill We Climb, by Amanda Gorman. I wrote about the former in an earlier post. This one is about the poem.

Here is a link for those who would like to listen to her recite the poem at Biden’s inaugural function.

Gorman’s riveting poem struck a chord on so many levels that it, like Hannah’s book, reminded me of how similar all of us around the world are in our collective experiences.

Everywhere, we seem to be fighting the same demons – horrors of xenophobia and hatred based on ethnicity, cultural backgrounds and even skin colour; spread of misinformation for political gain – and her poem spoke as clearly to me as any written by an Indian might.

We are striving to forge our union with purpose,

To compose a country committed

To all cultures, colours, characters,

And conditions of man.

And so we lift our gazes not

To what stands between us,

But what stands before us,

We close the divide

Because we know to put

Our future first, we must first

Put our differences aside.

To all cultures, colours and characters. If only we could set down our weapons and see for once that we are all a lot similar than we are different. Especially in a time such as this, as we grieve together at a nation on its knees, losing people by the thousands per day, living in self-imposed cages clutching the ravaged bits of our life in our hands. If only we could learn from everything that went wrong, and choose a better tomorrow. If only we could say…

That even as we grieved, we grew,

That even as we hurt, we hoped,

That even as we tired, we tried.

That we’ll forever be tied together.

Victorious,

Not because we will never again know defeat,

But because we will never again sow division.

I hold on her words that ring like a battle cry against my chest, and dream of my nation too arising like a phoenix out of the many pyres that have aburnt for far too long.

We will not march back to what was,

But move to what shall be:

A country that is bruised but whole,

Benevolent but bold,

Fierce and free.

Fierce and free.

Fierce and free.

Posted in Musings

The Four Winds – An Unexpected Glimpse into American History

I had two unexpected encounters with American history and politics the other day. A novel, The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah and a poem, The Hill We Climb, by Amanda Gorman. I read both with no context or prior knowledge of the setting and was startled to say the least, especially in the many ways they resonated with me. This post is about the Hannah’s book.

As an Indian, I have had little exposure to The Great Depression. A vague memory of its brief mention in our history textbooks had me know there was some kind of an economic recession, and that was it. In a grammar class that I attended outside of school, my eccentric teacher once mentioned something about wheat being dumped in the ocean by the American government to push prices up, and it got stuck in my memory next to a random caricature of the Boston Tea Party – nothing more than a small wonder at why men found the need to throw food in water.

When I began the novel set in the early 1900s, it was nothing more than a distraction, a new personal project. The writing wasn’t bad, and the premise was new, albeit reminiscent of some old classics. But as the story progressed, I got more and more engrossed. The dust, the heat, the unending drought; I could almost feel my throat dry up under the sweltering words. The strained relationship between a woman struggling with insecurities and her kin dreaming of a better life. The despairing fight for survival and the harrowing futile search for a better future. Xenophobia and otherness in a land that’s yours and yet isn’t. Perhaps the most surprising part of it all, for me, was the glorified tint of communist ideology that’s strewn towards the end.

The book resonated with me on many levels, and for different reasons. Firstly, communism. I hail from Kerala, a state in India which went down in history as the first people in the world to have democratically elected a communist government to power. I’ve grown up watching film after film that spoke of Che Guevara with pride and showcased the red flag as a token of youth, revolution, and a fight for social justice. Stories continue to be recounted with awe of the oppression meted out by the rich and the powerful, worker’s struggles united under the revolutionary ideal, and the triumph that brought about a society that currently has the highest Human Development Index in the country. The details in the book seemed like yet another movie made back home. It seemed almost uncanny to hear this narrative in a book set in the United States, a country long known as a flag bearer of capitalist economy.

This was further complicated for me by the fact that the workers portrayed are people from Red states like Texas and Oklahoma (side note – I find it quite amusing that both Republicans and Communists share the same colour) who themselves are usually shown to have a strong political sentiment against leftist ideologies.

The part that hit the hardest though, was the experiences of the prime protagonist as a migrant labourer. India has a huge population of inter-state migrant labourers who move to urban areas in search for a better future and end up being part of the invisible populace known as the urban slum-dwelling poor. Last year, when the first wave of lockdown hit the country, they were all thrown off work and driven from their residence, and hundreds of families traversed thousands of miles by foot to reach back to their villages. These are incidences that you hear about briefly in news reports,that you put out a few posts about and then conveniently forget about as another trend pops up; this book laid out in excruciating detail what it is like to be treated like a lesser human, simply because you did not ‘belong’. The labelling was all too familiar – how tax payers’ were bearing the brunt of looking after a “lazy”, “uncivilised”, “illiterate” lot who simply did not want to earn their living.

The same excuses, the same oppression, the same fights.

A story set in 1930s America to resonate with someone in 2020s India – what can possibly be a greater testimony to the limitless and tragic nature of human condition?

P.S. I know that this platform and, thereby, many who visit my site are American. I welcome your insights into the different matters dealt with in the book, i.e., the Great Depression, xenophobia, viewpoints regarding the proletariat, general political commentary on communist/capitalist ideals, or simply even your own impressions about the book and any further references/suggested reading.

P.P.S. Especially from you, Brian. 😉

Posted in Musings

Chasing Moulds of Memories

I have memories of harbouring this feeling deep within, this inane wish to capture some moments as they occur, into a 3-D mould. I know what they feel like – the laughter, the lightheaded euphoria and this sense of something rich filling up my heart – and yet no exhaustive record of what those moments were. I have recurent memories of the times when I took a step back and viewed the scene from afar, floating above like the drones in those infinite vlogs, craving to bottle up those pieces of calm and quiet in an otherwise chaotic world, and having them adorn my mantelpiece.

Sometimes, it’s close to what is named ‘midding’ in the dictionary of obscure sorrows by the brilliant John Koenig.

Midding. (v.intr.)
feeling the tranquil pleasure of being near a gathering but not quite in it—hovering on the perimeter of a campfire, chatting outside a party while others dance inside, resting your head in the backseat of a car listening to your friends chatting up front—feeling blissfully invisible yet still fully included, safe in the knowledge that everyone is together and everyone is okay, with all the thrill of being there without the burden of having to be.

As someone who has difficulty immersing oneself in social events, unless there are people to guide me through it, being blissfully included in a gathering comes rarely. I spent five years of my undergraduate education in a fairly new college in a nondescript town, dreaming about what it must be like to be part of something bigger, dreaming of grand experiences amidst spaces that boasted of glamorous legacy. Post graduation was this dream come true – I was at one of the oldest colleges in the country, with a beautiful sprawling campus, a rich heritage, half-yearly film festivals, and week-long cultural showdowns where renowned artists performed into the wee hours of the night. It was what I had always wanted all those years, and yet when it finally happened, I let it slip by.

I longed for my undergrad friends, as I stood like a stranger, clutching myself in bustling crowds where everyone apparently knew everyone else, afraid of running into familiar faces and seeing them turn away, afraid of being the only one who was too lonely to enjoy it all. I stayed in my hostel room, listening to the music in the distance, watching everyone get dressed up and leave, and later listening to stories of raving highs. I never went for the movie fests, never partook in the literary conversations, because it never truly felt like I belonged.

S thinks I’m someone who likes to go out and have fun but is afraid to actually do it. I remember being upset at the suggestion, and arguing against it. But I know he is right, when I consider everything I missed out on in Pondicherry. I always need someone to cling on to, someone I feel safe with, in order to brave the world. Someone to explore places with, someone to stare at the night sky with, someone to dance with at a concert. And more often than not, I don’t have those people, and I end up missing out on the things I want to do. It often seems like I live constantly in the regrets of yesteryear.

Perhaps this is another reason I yearn for those moulds. To show myself everything that I did manage to do, the choices that I did end up making. The reckless drunken drive at 2 AM when I became the best version of myself. The hours spent lying on warm ground past midnight with half a dozen other people, speaking in quiet undertones as we counted the falling meteors. The times when I did dance at the concerts, and on stage. The hours of practice put into choreography, and the easy smiles shared with the team. Christmas celebration on a bare rooftop with the gift of friends and the smell of peppery gin. Trekking and camping on the hills, and playing charades by the bonfire. The covert first kiss on the roadside, in that sweet moment when there was a sudden respite from passing headlights. Sitting at the back of a car, looking wondrously around at a group of friends who sang a parody so horribly out of tune that I just had to record it on my not-so-smart cellphone. And sometimes, simply staying back home, in a cozy corner and feeling good.

The most recent of those moments happened yesterday, as MB and I sat on our messy bed, leaning against the wall, reading quietly. Alexa hummed in the background, working her way through an obscure Spotify playlist of love songs. His legs lay over mine, as he worked his way through a Hindi learning guide. I started on my new copy of short stories by Anton Chekhov, while my right hand absentmindedly massaged his calf.

For a split second I floated up, and suddenly wished there was a video camera hovering above us to catch that moment. The music, the books, the calm, the sheer daily-life normalcy of it, which ironically made it special somehow. But I didn’t have a hovering video camera, and decided I might have to make do with words.

But it’s just as well, I suppose.

Why fret about moulds, when I could write the night into eternity. Some moments extend way beyond three dimensions.

Posted in Journal

Reflections

I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind yesterday.

Twice.

A TEDx talk I chanced upon while scouring a website the day before had a woman describing a real-life neurobiological method not entirely unlike that described in the movie which was used to map out the regions in her brain that lit up in response to possible limerence, and about some conditioning she underwent to literally fall out of love. When she mentioned the movie in passing, I wondered about watching it sometime soon, but soon forgot about it. But when I opened Netflix yesterday evening, the movie was tagged on my home screen as a new addition. It would seem multi-million dollar companies know thou better than thou knowest thyself. In any case, I took as a sign and started watching it.

I remembered clearly the first time I watched the movie although the premise and storyline remained somewhat vague; it is almost uncanny why I should attach so much importance to such a random moment in my past. This was some time in 2009. I skipped through major portions of it, proclaimed my disinterest and largely scoffed at anyone who talked about it being a good film. The re-watch was testimony of how you can look at the exact same thing at various time-points in your life and have entirely different reactions.

I saw myself on screen. The person who changed her hair to cope with problems. The impulsive decisions. The spurts of crying. ‘A fucked up girl looking for her own piece of mind’.

I saw my relationship. How she was with the nicest person she had ever been with, and yet felt trapped because he gave her a lecture about drinking and driving around with a friend at 2 AM. How she found him boring, and he found her irresponsible.

I knew it was a movie about relationships and heartbreak, and I did have vague memories of some scenes, but the one thing caught me unawares was the ending.

He says it’s okay, and they hug.

As credits roll, I feel tears at the corners of my eyes, a faint trickle, and then the gasps and the uncontrollable outburst. Breathing becomes difficult, my vision blurs and I press my face against the pillow and weep for an eternity.

When MB gets home I tell him I wanted to watch a movie with him. Round two. As the credits roll, I set the phone aside and lean against his chest.

That’s me, I say.

He’s skeptical as usual. But he tries to accommodate my fancies and smiles anyway. Nicest guy I’ve ever been with.

This is how I am, I say. Impulsive. Feeling trapped. Do you remember how I colored my hair after we broke up? You see?

I feel like a child, trying to make a futile point. Silence falls.

It’s okay, he says. We hug.

It’s okay.