…but megalomania is a natural tendency of the Sapiens- the incessant urge to construct narratives out of unrelated incidents and unknown people, to take multicolored threads and weave them into cape or noose, depending on the mood. But always around ourselves, for ourselves. A man who will take the last leaf spiralling down from an autumned branch and make it a metaphor of his own fragility. A woman who will hear of deaths-of strangers, of corals, of stars and entire galaxies- and use them to bolster her faith in her own sense of living. Is any human truly capable of empathy?…
(People are weird)
Nerves throbbing with the taps of Likes,
Breaths catching, at nameless comments
By a faceless man-woman-robot-someone-something
Saying “I’m ugly” when you can clearly see starlight
Streaming out of their mouth and raindrops in their eyes
(People are weird)
False modesty oozing through cracks
Daubed with six layers of foundation to conceal
The blood they have on their hands
Learning in biology, facts about genes and proteins
and nucleotide sequences, knotting them up
into religion and race, racing children against children
Before they have even been born
(People are weird)
Listening to podcasts about dying polar bears
While driving to work, grumbling about the heat,
The people- why are there so many people anyway?
Unable to tell air and smoke apart sitting in high-rises
That reach for the clouds, even as walruses topple off cliffs
(People are weird)
(For writing in brackets in silent tongues the things)
(They wish they had enough courage to scream out loud)
When your lips touch mine, it is much more than one shred of slowly dying skin aligned on another. More than all the metaphors every poet through the ages has dreamed up, that I will write for you tonight and every other night.
When I kiss you, I don’t hear violins- only the sound of your erratic heart thudding next to my erratic heart, against a backdrop of car horns and creaking bed springs and nosy pigeons looking for a place to fuck.
When I kiss you, we don’t smell of roses. We smell of each other’s morning breath and different varieties of caffeine. Of day-old layers of sweat mixed with perfume that you say you can now pick out in a crowd, if only I were to waltz in.
Kissing you is bewilderment and anticipation and gratitude at this moment we’ve found ourselves in. That we could lose in the next instant. That we somehow forget to worry about losing, as long as we have it right now.
Kissing you is the sum total of my deepest desires and my darkest fears- the knowledge that everything I could ever want is here, and the knowledge that life can never top this again. A state of thoughtlessness hitherto alien to someone like me. A degree of thoughtfulness I could never have unlocked without you.
Kissing you is not falling in love– it is just being.
It has been a long time since I last wrote. It is not like I haven’t considered it- several times over the past four months I have sat myself down, prepared to let the words flow. And then they have paused, unable to find themselves in alignment with the emotions pouring out.
These four months have been some of the most difficult in my life, more so because of the inertia in other sectors of my life. Turbulence gets countered if one part of life, career or relationships or anything at all, is going well. When nothing is- when you’ve never been more alone (literally) in a three BHK house on the 24th floor in an isolated offshoot of the city, those are the times when turbulence threatens to swamp you like an asthma attack.
And those are also the moments in which, if you keep enough faith, Grace reveals itself to you. Grace, a word I have been highly sceptical about, up until the previous year. The obvious interpretations of “grace” have always been manifested around me as either an intense pressure to be nice all the time, or an exaggerated belief in religion and divinity. Both of which I had been growing increasingly disillusioned with- and it was at this time that you came to me, speaking of grace. In the past 365 days, I have been swept away by what grace truly means. Embracing my innate niceness as one of my greatest strengths, to be used spontaneously to help anyone who needs it is a kind of grace I have grown into only in the light of some Otherworldly Grace I can’t begin to explain. You were an instrument in bringing me to it, it to me- for that you will always have my unspeakable gratitude.Grace has come into each action that I now perform, a consciousness so delicate that it is ingrained in every breath.
I have spent the past one hour having a conversation with my own jealousy. The prospect of feeling threatened about my Love and one particular person always has, hitherto, managed to dredge up the most jealous parts of me, and so it did a while ago as well. I stared at the picture, I cried, I laughed a little, I cried some more, I decided I cannot take this anymore, that I shall move away because that is the only course open to me, to block this pain before it starts. I got angry too, because I had just told him that this makes me insecure, and with a seeming disregard and carelessness, he had created such a situation mere minutes later. And then, perhaps as a testament to the fact that I have learnt to observe my feelings a little more instead of drifting away, I stopped and breathed.
When you stop two things- one, feeding your anger as something righteous and two, berating your anger for even existing, you will find that you reach a far more comfortable middle ground. I simply sat down, cried and said- okay, you got angry and hurt and afraid. Then I asked myself- why? It turns out what my subconscious has been doing is bringing in a set of factors that have honestly never mattered whenever Love and I have been together. The factors of the public image of our relationship, and the possibility of him being dissatisfied with me and going to the other person for a far more fulfilling experience, being the primary ones. These are factors that don’t even apply to him- they are the baggage of my previous relationships and interactions. This man has never left me feeling vulnerable in public, because what we have is by virtue of its natural self very private, unique to the two of us- we barely ever have/require words to explain it. This man does not move from person to person being dissatisfied, he is aware enough to know that satisfaction or contentment is purely internal. So basically, my jealousy feels that it has been late in coming, because it was taken unawares the previous times, and is now asserting itself with a vengeance in a place where it is no longer required.
So I had this hour long conversation, that I can ill-afford in practical terms because I have to get up early, but that was nonetheless very necessary. Because I have been so worried at the prospect of pain, given the pain I have drawn into myself in the past, I haven’t stopped to notice that it is getting better. That I can now move out of such situations easier and not because I am faux-cheering myself up, but because I know that these are momentary ripples. And what stays eventually and always is the water, not the ripples. What stays is the love, if you can manage to trust it.
Manto writes of how, in moments of crippling self-doubt, his wife would tell him to stop thinking so much and simply put ink to paper. Curiously, the first part of that statement is what my Ideal Reader often says to me as well. It is true that if you let the pen run faster than the tangled web of your own thoughts unraveling, then you might sometimes, come across a written insight that you know nothing of, a window into a part of yourself you have hitherto artfully covered up with old rags and newspapers, and a bucket turned upside down for weight.
Writing is a dangerous game because it dismantles every notion of control, one line at a time. If you think you are taking a poem this way or that, deciding the fate of a character. completing and sequencing thoughts and logic, then you probably haven’t been writing long enough. Every seeming choice is but a ‘seeming choice’, even the last minute replacement of one name by another, the drop of a word, the inclusion of another. Becoming a writer is perhaps the easier part. What is more complex is trying to reverse- engineer your formula, to figure out whether it was the weather, or the astronomical alignment of celestial bodies, the shade of ink,perhaps- what gave you a masterpiece on July 24th, 2015 that you could not replicate on October 10th, the following year? As such, can you ever truly know if you shall continue to be a writer?
All you can do, is write, right now.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast, the Red Queen tells Alice. Sometimes, when I am having an anxiety attack, I like counting them down on my fingers until I can breathe again.
One, our doppelgangers exist in parallel universes, and time runs slowly enough in one of them for there to be a me that still exists without knowing what you taste like.
Two, the touch of your fingers on my skin is not an anesthetic but a thread looping in and out to make sure I will never be quite that frayed again.
Three, millions of books exist, and hundreds more are being written even as I type, and yet none holds the story we have in our souls.
Four, the touch of your fingers is the red thread, but I am the one stitching, every moment, every day.
Five, our doppelgangers exist in parallel universes, and time has sped ahead enough for a me that exists in knowledge that the last time I tasted you, was the last.
Six, in this moment, I am breathing.
Several years ago, I read a French phrase that struck me rather hard. In place of I miss you, the French say, Tu me manques, which translates to a literal You are missing from me. Even until the beginning of this year, if you were to ask me how I miss you, I would perhaps say it echoes the very nature of this phrase, like a wrenching cramp somewhere inside me, reminding me very distinctly of what is not there. But I think it has been changing, very gradually, with you and me, with us as we evolve.
You are so firmly in me, everywhere- you’ve already become the parallel mental voice, the voice of calm, of humour, of the one that reminds me that sometimes a breath is all it takes to start fixing things. The one that gently chides when I sometimes start on my downward spiral of self-hatred, and tugs gently at the part of me that knows that I am much more than a sum of my worst mistakes. You are here, never really gone anymore, even in distance and silence.
Tu es en moi, mon cher amour.
I have always been somebody who likes control, and many a time I have proudly declared how my “backup plans have backup plans”. Every event I organize is micro-managed, I have a book and a playlist on hand at all times in anticipation of people who will turn up late and I’m one of those people who laugh at Monica’s character in FRIENDS but is secretly her (breasts of a Greek Goddess may or may not be part of the deal).
Over the course of this year, I am learning that the semblance of control is the biggest illusion of them all. This doesn’t mean, as some might conveniently interpret it, that we have no responsibility. We do, and nothing can absolve us from doing the best possible we can, but control is something we’ve never had and will never have. I’ve always been a sceptic, naturally, innately. I’m sure I wasn’t born this way, children have this incredible fearlessness that is directly correlated to faith in their own invincibility. But somewhere over the years, like most other people, I have developed a knack of questioning, which is great, and some measure of constant disbelief in things, which is not so great.
I’d been watching Sadhguru’s videos on how we’re so afraid to lose something we do not actually possess and ever since Oree got me started on Sri Sri’s work, the videos and the book, ‘God Loves Fun’, this has been coming up more and more often. And I’m not going to pretend it’s an automatic transition, but there has been some level of a turnaround in how I approach situations now. I like retrospecting a lot in general, for better or worse. I like examining situations that have now settled emotionally, with a mental microscope. This is not so much to brood, but to learn, to see if I can spot a tear or a break point, to see where trouble began. Even this analysis is leading me to the conclusion of a lack of control.
I didn’t control when I got into love or when others did. I didn’t control detours,exits, every moment that I should have supposedly seen coming, well I couldn’t have. I could only have lived through it, which I did, and lived through it as best as I could given my knowledge at that point. I cannot look back at my eighteen or twenty-year-old self, at age twenty-four and wonder why. There is no basis to it. I can, similarly, not try to constantly jump to look ahead to thirty or forty or even twenty-five. Again, it is equally baseless. The only moment you can control is the one you exist in right now. It is like that quintessential song. If tomorrow never comes, would they know how much you love them?
I am finding it harder to talk to people when I am sad or crying or not happy, and this isn’t a plea for help. There have been times in the past when I have been desolate, completely unaware of what to do to, and I haven’t been able to confide in anyone- this isn’t that. It is, in some ways, the exact opposite. I say harder, because it is the explanation of this difference that is difficult- the fact that this sadness is different from my usual bouts of self-destructiveness that have happened in the past. My friends get concerned if I mention that I have been crying, and it is but natural, because had the situation been reversed, I might have persisted in dragging it out of them. There is a fantastic Oatmeal comic which comes the closest to how I feel on certain days. After years of wondering how to, I seem to have transitioned from someone who needed/wanted people, to someone who automatically assumes that there isn’t anyone better for the job than myself.
My sadness is no longer violent, or teary, or jealous or humiliating. If I had to describe it, I’d say crying gives me the same sensation as the initial relief in getting toxic alcohol out in vomit. My tears feel the same way as the rain tracks on my face when driving with an open window, and I can usually manage to do some other mind work with perfect focus after the silent outburst. I basically sit, cry, get down with it, wipe my cheeks and move on.
Now ordinarily I’d call that a cause for celebration, because this seems like a pinnacle of the self-love argument. I only feel like giving people my company when I am positive, and productive and happy, and manage myself when I’m not. But I’m sceptical of the way this has been happening and as to how sustainable it will be. I have a suspicion I’m getting into this mindset because I am moving away from people, changing countries and time-zones, and I want to isolate myself before they isolate me, however inadvertently. Almost everyone is more excited than I am, because they envision the opportunities with a much rosier lens. Those who are not as excited are so owing to whatever ways this shift would affect their own lives. In this case, quite logically, I am the only person remaining that I can truly discuss my apprehension and insecurities with (although being with one of the most fantastic listeners I know helps a lot).
For as long as I can remember I have had this habit of wanting to be what we call in economics, the “first mover”. Even to someone who knows no game theory, it would be clear that first movers have certain advantages. When I was a shy, slow child who liked to read, I would hasten to say that I didn’t like the slide at all, and so I was letting the other children climb it instead. This averted the risk of letting my parents push me into attempting the activity and getting bullied. I quit swimming because my instructor made me feel pathetic about being scared of not getting oxygen, and said it was because some kid had pooped in the pool a day before. I pretended that school captain responsibilities took up entire lunch breaks to avoid confrontational scenarios with my so-called friends which might end in them abandoning me. I ended up reassuring men I didn’t expect our relationships to last, before they could tell me that.
And it still hurt just as much. All of it. I hate being a chronic first-mover, because it’s more like chronic first-pusher. I hate the fact that the only reason I don’t have a single thing I want, is because I’m too scared to admit I want it badly and then have it go away because of that same want. I have my eggs in multiple baskets and I pretend I don’t care which one I eat. My mother has that bit right about my commitment issues- just that she doesn’t understand why. I’m not sure I would ever have the urge to explain it to her in a way she would understand.
I think I am always trying to cut people off mentally and I know that’s probably not very healthy, given that I occasionally keep lecturing Oree and others about this same phenomenon. It is just that the futility of having people in the world but not having them close, gets to me at times. In such moments it’s just easier to tell them you don’t want to talk, to shut the world out, cry, play music and just sit in a haze. Rather than explain something they have no way of making a difference to in that moment, and having them feel guilty because of this.