F – Fudge

Choultries are depressing in the evenings. Disorderly empty chairs, echoes of laughing relatives bouncing off lazy white walls, broken flowers; water spilled here and there from water fights between running cousins, goodbyes and wishes hanging in the air, the feeling that the last few remaining people on the earth are pulling away, going far away from you.

It just screams emptiness, like my Sunday evenings back when I was in school. Dad watching the news; me, sprawled on the living room floor doing homework and the only ritual I most enjoyed throughout my school – Packing my bag, arranging books according to size, emptying my pencil pouch, cleaning it and then putting everything back again. It was how I coped with having to welcome Monday. I remember the sinking feeling of familiarity and consistent family time that exploded every Sunday.The news, its ads, the songs, the anchor’s dead voice, mom’s walking in and out of the hall bringing food for dad. When I think of it now, it brings an onslaught of tired whys and hows followed by 2 never mores.

It felt like I was living somebody else’s Sunday evening, on borrowed time, in borrowed space. It was not mine, it could never be mine unless I was older enough to do what I wanted to with my Sundays.

I’m old enough today. But there’s always a but.

When I am getting dressed to see you, a vast nothingness of forgotten Sundays opens up and I look at it with an almost bored desire to not be there but still be there. Sometimes, I don’t want you as much as I want you. Some other times, I think of what it would be like to have a whole Sunday for myself, without having to share it with anyone and I smile. Sometimes, I think of having too many Sundays for myself and the promise of solitude thrills me just as much as it scares me. Eventually, the fear of missing you and wanting what I could have had, but can’t now is what holds me back.

Every time, I turn cold, the memory of your laugh makes me warm. The 101 names you have given me on account of various celebratory accidents, the slowness in your movements when you sleep, the rare outbursts of affection that you show me only in my imagination, the languages you have invented and the songs you sing, the words you distort and change to fit your mouth, the way you laugh when you see people fall, the way you won’t stop laughing when I fall; your face and its creases, your hand and its raw warmth, the tightness in your chest and your hugs, the way you caress my head when I weep in your arms.

These are only some of the things that hold me back from going ahead and having at all the Sundays myself. What brings cold logic to the warm, faint beating in my heart and the voice of your laugh is the Choultry; its ugly dullness. It’s how I will be if I am with you.

G – Green eyed wala monster

Why are some people different than most others when they are in love? Why does jealousy accompany love with so much passion? Why does the absence of it bring coldness in relationships? Why is the lack of jealousy frowned upon by some and celebrated by some others? I have been pondering over relationships and jealousies for sometime now. And it has left me more puzzled and watchful of my thoughts than anything.

How do you explain that surge of bubbling blood and vital organs turning inside out when the person you desire desires somebody else? Do we feel jealous because we think we are ‘supposed’ to feel jealous? Do we feel jealous because we think it’s the most reliable and convenient way of declaring love to somebody? Eventually do we end up desiring them because they invest so much energy in feeling jealous?

A wise woman once told me that she doesn’t really care about her partner’s desires for other people as long as their desire for her remains the same. I felt almost handicapped when I heard that. Without much sequel to that conversation, I found myself desiring that state of ease. I wish I could say that some day. I wish I could mean it when I say that someday. 

I have had conversations with many people about this. And most of them think it pointless to be jealous because it’s beyond our control. We cannot decide how those that we desire ought to feel about others. But isn’t this untrue? Because we do decide in more arrangements than we take credit for, how those that we desire see us and other people.

The jealousy could be pointless but not because it is beyond our control but because why we feel jealous has nothing to do with us. It shouldn’t have anything to do with us. We feel jealous because we see another person as whole and his/her belonging to us in wholeness. But this a flaw we tend to overlook. When did people become wholes? Why do we see them as wholes? Isn’t it because we think it’s not normal to have many personalities in one? Because Psychology calls it a disorder to nourish many selves within one self? 

What if it were completely normal to be schizophrenic and by that extension, free of ourselves? I would be very happy if I wasn’t curious about who else my partner is sleeping with. Curiosity getting fucked here because I don’t see them as one whole belonging to me but as many parts, only one of which they choose to share with me. Is it now possible to keep track of what they do with the other selves? 

Does this mean freedom finally from wanting to know everything about them? 

Am I going slightly mad?

 

H – High and Highway

If my life had a sound track right now, it would play that sad-funny tune when Mario is bitten by the vicious-cute turtles. Or like Mappy when it is killed by kittens. I can only think of soundtracks in video games. Because these tracks imitate exactly how I feel right now. My face now looks just like Mario’s when he dies and goes down. Never mind, I am writing this to feel better. I feel screwed from all directions.

I don’t know how I got here. When I think about how I got here, all I see are trees passing me by like they do when I travel. Like when I reach the destination and think of my journey, I can only remember roads and their roughness, their curves and turns, the trees and their bigness, some old women’s faces, their wrinkles and their lives passing me by in a moment. Like how in the movie Highway, she retraces her journey back to what can never be hers and all she remembers are the roads and trees and misses having seen them with him.

I am lost today. Everything at work is going slow, like how on highways sometimes you slow down because you are unsure about the road you are driving on? Have 2 classes today. Need to be wildly prepared for one but mother fucking roads are all I can think of now. Freud says this means I need to take off and be with myself for sometime.

Argh! I can slowly see my blog turning into one of my pathetic journals. Need to stop it before it’s too late. I should write more short stories and read them later and beat my chest. That is some consolation. At least I am not moaning when I write bad fiction. I am only beating my chest and that stops soon after nice colleagues hug me and tell me nice things.

Only Elaichi tea can save me now. Baaah!

I – Iris

At 5:00 in the evening, I went to Iris’ home. Gin cried on the phone when he called to tell me that Iris hadn’t been eating. So I took some cold sesame noodles from shanghai town; the one near the flyover, not the one next door. The noodles from next door are dry and salty and Iris hates dry and salty.

Iris’ home has a very musty smell. I don’t know what musty smells like but it’s the only word that seems to know what I smell there, so, musty. Iris was in the bathtub when I walked in. She gave me a tired, almost irked look when I knocked twice on the bathroom door and entered.

‘Get out’, she snarled.

She was smoking. The smell of vanilla mixed with smoke and all the steam knocked me out. It wasn’t musty any more.

I left the food on the table and waited outside. I smoked 6 cigarettes before finally getting tired of waiting and marched back in. It was 5:50.

She was watching TV now. She hadn’t touched the food. She was lodged on to the sofa, still in her bathrobe, one leg on the back rest, the other arched over on the table in front.

I was used to how pathetic I feel about myself when I am around her. Today I saw how pathetic she makes inanimate objects feel around her. I could feel the existential in the remote bounce off and fall on me. Every object in Iris’ presence loses meaning because she doesn’t believe that they exist. I don’t know how else to put it. The way she overlooks them; holds them – doesn’t feel them. That’s how it is. I feel like a void when she talks to me even in those rare few moments that our eyes meet.

6:00

As pointless as it was to have asked her, I like to nurture hope and that tiny niche of masochism so I took the bag of food and placed it in front of her.

‘Eat?’ I begged.

She was still watching TV.

Some rerun of The Simpsons.

Now and then, she would snort while the laughing track ricocheted off the newly installed woofers.

6:20

‘So’, I began in another lameass attempt at conversation with her, ‘I er, I am going over to Gin’s tonight.’

Iris heaved another dead look at me.

It was weird now. Even I, who have been so used to her calm nakedness couldn’t ignore the hairless expanse between her legs. Maybe it had nothing to do with her. Maybe if there was hair, I would have been less nervous.

But as Iris would put it, ‘What do I know?’

6:23

‘Hand me that packet, Marge’, she said pointing her toe at the pack of cigarettes that were on the far end of the table.

That was Iris’ second and last sentence of the evening.

7:00

We smoked. The musty smell grew stronger.

At 7:20 her eyes finally gave away and she fell asleep.

I walked to the sofa and kneeled next to Iris. She smelled like vanilla and coconut.

I missed Iris.

I missed watching her sleep, holding her in my arms and kissing her. She looked strangely invulnerable today, even in her sleep.

I brushed my lips against hers and whispered ‘I miss you’. I held her face for some time and wept quietly.

7:30

 I covered her with my jacket and left.

It was freezing cold outside. But I carried the warm must with me so I didn’t miss my jacket.

J – Just leave

A queen sized bed overlooks a window. Around 12:00 in the noon, when the light is at its most splendid, it steels through the window and falls on the bed like thoughts organised neatly on mornings that one wakes up early. A sudden hustle of wind makes a hurried attempt at the bed, and spoils the painful neatness that is the bed spread. The folds on the bed spread grow thick and inconsistent. This irks the house keeper beyond measure but she likes light, wind and other such pleasantness so she will not close the windows or draw the curtains.

The table stands in a corner, looking orphaned yet sprightly. Its black doesn’t go well with the lavender of the walls or the curtains. Although the books themselves look devoid of dust, a slate of dust runs around books that haven’t been touched in ages, This wasn’t due to the house keeper’s carelessness. She was simply warned never to change the position of the books.

A broken lamp stands in another corner. It is a bronze lamp and one has to look at it very carefully to see where and why it is broken. A withering, brown book shelf is the lamp’s neighbor. And just above ‘A mill on the Floss’, is a very artistically carved hole where a spider lives and does what spiders do. An old, dusty copy of the ‘Walden’ sits alone on the top shelf. It looks returned. Is that why it sits alone? On the shelf below, a Waldenesque shape looks carved just as artistic as the hole – its predecessor. Only this one looks more enchanting. An OCD prone person would leave the Walden-hole alone.

Around 3:00, the light softens and this time when it falls on the bed, it looks like a well composed, grieving princess crying softly. A little after, the light falls on a pair of black sandals that are to the left of the bed. It looks just as inviting as the soft blueness of gigantic pillows propped against the headboard.

An empty glass jug is the light’s next affair. It sends shards of glassy reflections onto the mirror that towers to the right of the bed. Every time the house keeper walks in and out if the bedroom, leaving the door shut thud, flecks of dust float up and then settle down on the bed and there they rest until her next visit. They will continue to shift and settle down even after she cleans. The dust in this room is like the ghostly light in the room. It never leaves, just like its walls don’t, just like its secret hasn’t left the room since that stormy night 80 years ago.

The letters continue to collect dust between the pages of ‘War and peace’.

Tonight however, the owner will return to her bedroom, to reclaim those letters and to put to rest finally, the room and its dark secret.

K – Kashmir

It looked like any other north Indian city when I arrived that summer morning in 2010. Except that Srinagar airport looked thin of people and structure and devoid of welcoming presences altogether.  I found out later that this was because of the curfew that the city was thrown under. I wondered how the airport looked on non curfew days. Was there more sunshine? Were there more women? More vendors? My parents looked worried so I didn’t bother them with questions.

Ashfaq, our taxi driver greeted us with a sombre yet an earnest face. And as is customary on all our family travel lore, I bargained with dad for a full 5 minutes for the seat next to the driver’s but he wouldn’t budge. He was adamant about the damn seat. He had eternal dibs on that seat. Mother later told me that he was worried that someone would throw a stone on my face, destroying forever therefore my chance at marriage and kids. Big loss and all.

I cribbed and occupied the back seat but my mood changed consistently after what I saw outside. Srinagar is in the middle of mountains, that much I was convinced about. After the great Matheran fiasco of 2007, I was careful in expecting vast differences between internet pictures and the actual place. According to the pictures that I gorged off the internet, Matheran was supposed to be dipped in greenery and Vanilla Mountains because of some godforsaken white mud, which turned out to be bullshit of course because there was mud alright but brown; brown mud, brown dust and brown air.

Srinagar, on the other hand didn’t need Google images to promote its hills and mountains and their greenery. It did need promotion, however, on the people front. Owing to curfew and its very many delights, the roads were empty, banks closed, schools and colleges closed. It did make for a splendid first visit. I had never seen so many trees up close before; either that or I haven’t noticed trees in other cities because of the people hovering around the city.

Anyway, Srinagar looks tired; like it cannot put up with having to balance between 2 extremes. One, that is its alluring ambience and then the disturbing – almost killing silence that it is surrounded by. It’s not a silence that one sighs and takes deep breaths in. It is a silence that one foretells danger in. Like a premonitory sign that something bad is about to happen. Scary, murderous silence.  And these silences were peculiarly more haunting when I was around the hills. 

Our first stop was at the Shikhara on Dal Lake. It was biting cold but the lake was ambushed by mountains from all sides so I couldn’t really focus much on the cold. The views were enough to keep me warm.

My first lunch in Kashmir taught me that rice is to be avoided at all costs in and around Kashmir, the way you would avoid Ragi rotti in Chinese restaurants. Have at all the localised momos and other fresh veggies here. The special Kahwa tea is refreshing and slightly addictive especially on cold mornings. The roti-sabzi combination is probably the only other substitute for a diet that cannot digest fat rice. But that’s all about the food that I can remember about Kashmir.  I may regret saying this but what the hell, there is a chance I may wake up in a foul mood one morning, read the crap here and just delete the whole site. Here goes anyway, Food, just like anywhere else is the same everywhere, even in Kashmir.

But food is hardly what brings Kashmir closer to me. I found Kashmir in the sheep and cows. I have never developed long lasting bonds with animals so the fact that I remember the animals in Kashmir so vividly, is surprising.

The cows and sheep there are lovely. But what makes it lovely maybe is that Kashmir is just like anybody imagines it to be, or like they show in the movies. The cows are white or proportionately black and white, the grass, greener than your neighbor’s, the sky you can almost reach because your head is literally in the clouds. That’s how I thought Kashmir looked like and that’s how it actually does.

 

 

L- Lake

Picture a circle, will you? The one that a 6 year old draws with all the disaster it can muster. A half eaten moon here, two disjointed points there, the map of a small South Asian country everywhere. The lake was this circle. Leafless bunches of trees sticking out from earth overlooked the lake, watched over it and its silences.

The mountains looked like faraway relatives that appear to be distant but are always around you, in your life, threatening to enter any minute now. The silhouette that these mountains managed to pass off as scenery by twilight sought redemption in the next day’s merciless blighting of the sun and the things sun does with huge landscapes.

The lake absorbed the heat, light and the yellow of everything ugly and warm and reflected it with twice the aggression by noon. A white hawk sits by the lakeside and looks. Now and then, its friends join it and they all sit quietly and breathe the landscape.

It is hardly windy here but when it is, the lake moves like a river chasing its ocean.

When night falls, the silence becomes deafening, the black in everything merging with the quite in everything. Now and then passing frogs croak and call out to the lake. Now and then, the buzz and hiss of various insects cut through the silence like the snake cuts through wet grass.

The first stroke of dawn falls on the dew of the only remaining leaf on an otherwise cheerful tree. Any minute now the leaf will fall and meet its only family on the ground, brown and withering.