They were still holding hands

On M.G. Road last week – between the long stretch of utility building and barton centre, I was hurrying to get to a dinner I was already 2 hours late for. When I eventually got there, my bag felt heavier – buckling under the weight of my carelessness and what my mother irritatedly calls ‘taking life like a joke’. It was too late to even walk in casually because this was a fancy restaurant – one that can get away with having extremely small tables cramped together in an even smaller terrace. Tall and short glasses were clinking daintily so my bag and I quietly bolted.

Walking back to my bike woefully, angrily, I saw a boy and a girl holding hands and walking towards me. The girl was wearing a purple sweater – the kind of purple that makes walking on MG road on cold nights seem like it is New York. She stopped next to a two-wheeler and took a peek at the small mirror on the bike’s handle. The boy was holding a Magnolia Bakery cover and looking straight ahead, not looking like he was even a little interrupted by her detour. They were still holding hands.

When she came up for air, she demanded to know why he hadn’t bothered to tell her that her hair was all over the place and that she looked like a monkey walking on M.G. fucking Road. He only said no baby, and they walked on.

They were still holding hands.

No scene from any film has had this much mood-lifting spirit.

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Knowledge is freedom from getting mad at facts

Found this on twitter and spent half a day reading and rereading it. For as long as I’ve known myself, I have been attracted to freedom, and freer people – even more. It’s why I enjoy teaching. It’s a way of meeting some of the freest people on earth.

When I say freedom, I don’t mean the kind of freedom that results in having your own home. I mean the kind that comes from cultivating a certain life of the mind which results in an unchangingly tough attitude in the face of charming situations and charminger people. A kind of self-assuredness that isn’t scared away by anything. A bigness of the mind, an unreachable, unavailable space for manipulations – other people’s and your own.

This blog was interesting to read because it breaks down large ideas like freedom, and self-hood into small, hold-able sizes.

Through that, I found Allie Brosh’s comic essay on depression which is as decent a read as possible, considering it’s about a subject whose discourse is becoming exhaustingly savarna by the minute. Allie’s approach is funny, gutting, and very much in touch with the fraudulent side there is to depression, its claimants, as also the rest of us who believe we are not depressed but sad.

I’ve been curious about how people remain unsentimental and also experience love and desire by holding on to every inch of their self-respect. This was a good read and I’m now curiouser.

The writer is a dude named Venkatesh Rao. Whoever you are, thanks boss. Yesterday, his work gave me a different set of eyes to see the world with. And I don’t think I’ll ever be able to see a parrot without thinking of this anymore.

It’s a Saturday today and tomorrow is Sunday. That’s all I know for now. An Instantgram reel I saw this morning broke it down quite simply. Are you more afraid of what’s coming next or that you can’t see what’s coming next? Here’s a thought – can you see your next step? If you can, then just take that. Don’t worry about anything else.

Too much funda on rumlolarum is not allowed. I will now go watch a cat video and feel better.

501

I wish there were two mornings in a day. In one, I would wake up early to read, in the other I’d wake up early to talk to trees.

In one, I would do yoga, in the other I’d watch a film.

In one, I would write, in the other I’d go for a walk.

I wish there were two mornings in a day. In one I would go back to sleep, in the other, I’d keep sleeping.

For 500

WordPress tells me that this is my 500th published post. It also tells me that there are 98 other saved as drafts posts that conceal my embarrassment well enough so I don’t have to deal with the embarrassment of the 499 published posts.

Blogging was fun. To all the amul babies who used to say blogging is not real writing, I hope your view of the world is just as pristine and that the King of England is treating you well.

I started writing in this small place with a name that I was very kicked by and because I wanted to get better at writing. Rumlolarum became a sweet home for every fleeting thought I had, ever humiliation – real or imagined, and every other journey I often took to conquer worries around self-respect, love, and desire.

I learnt how to be here. And I’m glad that despite all the comic drama of the last decade where I was failing and learning how to teach, read, and live – rumlolarum has always taken me home to write. I’ve heard mad things about this place – apparently students came here to play drinking games every time they located a grammar error (how can you people drink with Wren & Martin’s balls in your mouth pa?); apparently I am not the real author of rumlolarum (lol)- but to be here and smile, on what seems like the other side is a lesson in forgiveness. Forgiveness for me.

So much of writing is guilt-ridden. How can I think I can write? Who am I to think I can write as well as her? What guts I have to think I can call myself a writer — some periya shakespeare ah? Slowly slowly, without telling me, blogging became a way of forgiving myself for dreaming that I could be a writer someday. And then one day, it just happened that I wasn’t guilty about calling myself a writer anymore. I was one. I am one.

Two people I used to obsessively read in my postgrad years led me to blogging and the desire to keep writing. They each chronicled the city in such enticing ways that I longed to be in the city at the same time that they were writing about. Even though they both said that they read and wrote because there was nothing much to do when they were growing up – they both demonstrate the one thing that their generation had that ours just does not – grit and a sense of fun.

Reading their old blog posts in the late 2000s was for me a way of learning how to be in the city. When I read them now, I am glad to be here, and to know that I’ll be okay. It’ll all be okay.

On good hair days, there are springs in bum also

I want to remember today because I am grateful for it and want to be just as grateful when it ends at 11:59 PM. I woke up at 5:45 in the morning and knew I had slept well because I hadn’t heard the cats crying at 3 am, like I had heard them the night before. I snuggled back into my bed after giving a good shite. I dreamt restlessly and woke up an hour later, having missed the first show of sunlight in my room.

At 7, I went down to clean the kitchen. An hour later, father was getting ready to leave for the railway station. I was afraid. I am afraid when they leave home. They are now in the age where I must feel afraid. But then it’s also that I am in the age where I must feel afraid.

Mother wants sachets of Equal sugar free which are on the top shelf. I haul the green stool and stand on top of it. My father is in the kitchen, telling us that years ago, before leaving for a Delhi trip every other month, he’d give 2000 Rs to the office staff and now, post retirement, he barely has any for himself. He is laughing but his eyes are singing the song of how times have changed. I feel a parental urge to hug him and tell him that whatever he wants in the world is his.

We have never hugged.

I go back to my room carrying a wound which I am worried will become smaller through the day, In fact by 1 pm, it’d have become so small that I might not have any recollection of the morning, and the railway station and the 2000 Rs, and all that would remain is only the faint memory of thinking it would be nice to message father and ask if he’s reached.

I come to my table at work and feel arrested by the sudden sunlight the day has found at 9:30. I attended a zoom meeting calmly while putting on pinkish purple nail polish. I have an hour to prep for my horror fiction class. Read Cortazar and want to keep reading him. I think of my long ago love for Keret and feel renewed.

Read another story by Cortazar where a girl vomits rabbits. Felt surprised and then happy that I still have it in me to feel surprised.

Then I see my hair on top in the dept bathroom mirror and love how it is standing? sitting? being? — am taken over by the sense and the truth and the fact that I will never be as young or old as I am today. Feel a great urge to appreciate today.

My only black pair of jeans goes well with the olive green canvas shoes which goes well with my loose white shirt. Feel richly alive and there is spring in my bum when I totter off to class.

In class, I don’t have a sense of how time runs. Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the rules of time don’t matter when a good class happens. I leave class feeling new and more alive than I was when I’d entered.

I want to spend all day reading Cortazar.

At 1:30, I messaged father to ask him if he’d reached. He said he will reach in 20 mins.

Zigzag

Al, Deepika Padukone in Gehraiyaan repeatedly wondering, dreading, living her mother’s fear of being stuck. It echoes in the smallest of frames – taking trash down and putting it near the gate of her apartment building – standing there and examining her life from afar, from her eyes, possibly even her mother’s – wondering – is this the beginning of what stuck feels like?

Same place, many scenes later – running home, having survived, watching a man she loves change into a monster, then losing him to his own accidental death, discovering that he had wanted to murder her – all in a span of one night. Then standing under the shower, losing the last few traces of this man, weeping, knowing – this is what stuck feels like.

Even more poignantly, a little earlier when she discovers that her fiancé is more gutless than she always suspected him to be – the different ways in which people make it possible to become infidel is visible. He launches a string of attacks on her incompetence (since she is an ordinary yoga instructor and “writing is real work – it’s not like saying breathe in breathe out in front of four south Bombay aunties”) – Al remembers her mother in bed with her, weeping to herself saying “I am so stuck beta”

****

I was valuing General English papers last week, always fun, always making me return to the truth about why I teach. One answer made me cry, the next made me giggle and fall about.

To a question about whether the student had ever purchased something they didn’t need, someone wrote about going for a walk in the early days of the pandemic and passing by a small grocery store, visibly going out of business. The owner – an old man with sad eyes was sitting outside and smiling. The student went in to buy half a litre of milk that he didn’t need. After that, every time, the student passed by the store, he bought something or the other. A small, unspoken friendship built itself between them, and then after the pandemic, the student returned to his life, and the owner to his. Now, he says, when he passes by the store occasionally, the man remembers him and smiles. They wave at each other.

To a question about what gift they would like to give a classmate, the same student wrote about his friend’s useless mouse and how much he wants to throw it out and scream. He would like to gift him a new mouse, he says, because his friend’s old mouse is dabba and doesn’t work. If he won’t accept it, he’ll probably give him a classic Indian gift, i.e, a mug. I don’t know why this was funny. Probably because I was curious to understand how a question prompted a teenaged boy to think about his friend’s dabba computer mouse.

I thought back to all the allegations the most intelligent people from the sciences and commerce make about our questions papers. “No sense, anybody can answer your question papers, what is the point, just trying to be cool and stylish to impress students, chumma making it complicated for no reason” — I replayed each of these in my mind when I was reading this student’s answers. I was smiling, like some of my colleagues do when they correct papers. How many science/commerce teachers can afford to smile or laugh like this while reading an answer paper?

I’d like to know.

*****

One morning, walking around the park listening to David foster Wallace’s short story, Good People – I listened to the line It felt like a muscle he did not have with my eyes open, then closed, then opened quickly again. The boy David Wallace writes about in this story does not have the courage to tell the girl he’s made pregnant that he does not love her. I played with the word muscle in my head for a while. Didion mentions something about moral nerve in Self respect: its source its power. I walked faster.

*****

I was watching Freddy with my nephew one evening. I watched Freddy Ginwala when he was kicked and beaten around by his lover’s boyfriend. Lover and her boyfriend both trick him into killing her abusive husband. When Freddy finds out, he sits in the restaurant now owned by the woman and orders a falooda. It is brought to him and he calmly watches the woman and her boyfriend and drinks his falooda. They begin making out in front of him, hoping it will make him go away. It doesn’t. The waiter takes away the empty glass and Freddy says, “repeat” – woman and boyfriend are now irritated. They stop making out. Freddy cannot stop watching them. The waiter brings the falooda and the boyfriend grabs it, spits in it and bangs it on the table. Freddy drinks it, finishes it and calmly says – again – repeat.

My nephew and I burst out laughing.

My nephew’s pizza comes, he finishes eating it and asks me if the sachet packets need to be thrown away along with the empty box. I tell him to keep the sachets aside. What about the bill, he asks me. I say throw the bill away. Ayyo, why, he asks. What to do with it, I ask back. Okay, he tells me, then changes his mind and keeps the bill with the sachets. Why? Bill is paapa no? he tells me. I say okay must be.

We continue watching Freddy.

*****

Mumbai police called Freddy’s lover’s gym-going boyfriend “protein shake” and I couldn’t stop laughing.

*****

The possession by Annie Ernaux

I read The possession a few days ago while also slowly moving from episode to episode of Wednesday. How these women build themselves man. The possession was gutting. Familiar. Amusing. Funny. Relieving. I’ll never again wonder whether writing our way out of things that hold us back is a possibility. Because it is. Ernaux shows us how.

In The Possession, a woman succumbs to jealousy that takes over her entire being. The sweet memory of what she was like before the jealousy kicked becomes blurrier and blurrier with every passing page. But not for us. We don’t know what she was like before the jealousy but knowing her in jealousy is to also know her without it. She gives us carefully embroidered details of her inner life, almost as if she’s suffering deliberately in order to arrive at a cuttingly sharp and accurate way to define and get over jealousy.

“In the self-erasure that is the state of jealousy, which transforms every difference into a lack, it was not only my body, my face, that were devalued but also my occupation—my entire being.”

The possession, Annie Ernaux

She leaves a man out of boredom and is surprised to find that as soon as he finds somebody else to love, her boredom evaporates and becomes hard, stony jealousy. She’s both a spectator and a participant when she writes about how the envy began, why it stayed. She’s reporting it.

She is still in touch with him, they have the occasional lunch and long phone calls where she tries to get him to talk more and more about this other woman. Here she is an undercover investigative journalist because envy can’t grow without new information.

“Nothing he said was insignificant. In “I worked at the Sorbonne” I heard “They worked together at the Sorbonne.” All of his sentences were subject to an incessant de-coding, to interpretations whose unverifiability made them agonizing. The ones to which I paid no attention at first would return at night to ravage me with meanings that were suddenly hopelessly clear. The functions of exchange and communication that are generally ascribed to language had receded into the background, replaced by a singular function capable of signifying only one of two things: his love for me or for the other woman”

The possession, Annie Ernaux

She arrives at a hard earned clarity towards the end, shamed by how easily within reach yet how far it all was –

“The only thing that was true, and I never said it to him, was “I want to fuck you and make you forget the other woman.”

The possession, Annie Ernaux

—- eventually she lands on the one truth that envy has no answer to. It’s that look of small innocence and utter madness that dogs have after chasing two-wheeler riders like maniacs. Once the rider stops and looks over at the dog (also now stopping furiously) – its tail rigidly flying in air – the dog looks back, makes a soft noise and goes away. They even have the grace to not respond your childish protests about why they made you stop. Their tails will tell you: life goes on, move on boss.

“The thought occurred to me sometimes, in a flash, that if he were suddenly to say “I’m leaving her and coming back to you,” after a minute of absolute happiness—of almost unbearable elation—I would feel an exhaustion, a mental depletion comparable to that of the body after orgasm, and I would wonder why I had wanted this thing”

The possession, Annie Ernaux

And, scene.