…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?…
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.
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.
This is, for the lack of a better word, a ramble. Recently, the man I love asked me what I expect out of the two of us. And I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to figure it out.
Short answer, I want to be the best of myself with him as he grows into the best of himself. For us to have each other’s back through everything- good, bad, ugly, neutral.
Now because we don’t live in an isolated jungle, there arises the issue of names and terms and explanations. I don’t want to call him my boyfriend and have it mean a certain set of things others have pre-decided for us in sitcoms and romance novels. He’s one of my best friends. He’s also my favourite person to sleep with, or gaze at, or work with. A person I talk to when I win a prize or torture myself in self-doubt. Someone I can spend hours in silence with. He mayn’t actually be the only person in some of these categories. But the fact remains that he exists across all of them. Is there ever then a “just this or that” in a relationship like ours?
We’ve spent several hours on multiple days, engaging our author-reader brains to come up with a word that does our situation justice. I am a sucker for neat definitions at times, not particularly for my own self, but because I do not have the energy to be incessantly bothered by a world used to compulsive verbalizing. He humours me in ways that no one does, and so we’ve delved into Bengali and Japanese, English of course, even Thai perhaps, tried and failed to come up with one blanket that covers all our curves and ridges in the fit we prefer between the two of us. The closest we’ve come is Bronte’s Wuthering Heights-
‘Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same‘
The trouble, much like for Catherine and Heathcliff, is that this is a concept a lot of people cross-examine to shreds but precious few understand. Earlier, they would insist on having me tick any one box only- boyfriend or lover, husband or maybe a friend with benefits. Even with improvements, all the 21st century has done is increase the number you can check off- you don’t get to go out of the box unless you really struggle. So, on the one hand, there are your societal markers of flowers and anniversaries, mandatory phone calls and meetings, sex frequencies and cunnilingus requirements, milestones and rings, and eventual babies. On the other, there is a dazzling world of no rules, no commitments, a do-as-you-please-whilst-(mind)fucking-people anarchy. Somewhere in the middle, people like me are left wondering why there doesn’t seem to be a better third option.
In a country like mine, we possibly have one of the largest proportion of science scholars knowing exactly how sex is an evolutionary tool and an act of pleasure, but somehow, for generation after generation, marriages are still meant to reflect a divine component. You don’t really get to squirm out of it saying you’ve found your heaven in building separate positive lives together. Not even when the Earth is already vomiting humans past carrying capacity and could really use a break from fresh cute-faced angels of doom. Say you don’t believe in marriage and you will immediately be tossed aside into the category of saucy, impertinent “sinners” who live to defy. Apparently you can still only be a binary (mostly) when it comes to romantic relationships, even in an era where gender and sexual fluidity are catching on.
I’m sure he and I cannot be the only people crossing linguistic boundaries in attempts to have a back-up term we can use to tell people how we’re our own brand of normal and yet special. And yes, at some point or the other, because we’ve not perfected social indifference, we do feel like telling some people how there’s nothing wrong with not wanting what everyone’s running after. How it’s not a case of not being able to achieve the targets everyone sets, but more like, how we’ve never seen the point of those targets anyway.
Long story short, I don’t see why the internet still shows up results that equates label less to a lack of commitment, or honesty or hard work. I don’t see why formalized romantic relationships are supposed to be a watertight box of virtue when I’ve witnessed firsthand that they aren’t. I don’t see why friendships should be any less worthy of validation and protection, vis-a-vis romantic relationships, or why they should necessarily even exist in disjoint circles or murky intersections. I don’t understand why love only wears labels, when I’m a thrift-store person anyway.
To the boy with the kidnap vehicle,
You broke every rule I had about swiping right. You were conventionally cute, like a model in a Sherwani advert, you had no bio to write home about, you were very evidently well-to-do unlike my usual broke artist profile preferences, and I was sure you liked/wanted sex- in short, you were someone I was confident would never swipe someone like me. All you had was an exceptionally well-dressed father (joke) and a sense of humour. “Sorry Dad’s not available” is to date my favourite cheesy line. Perhaps in a different time, in a different place, we’d never even have matched. But two bored misfits in a sleepy town somehow did.
Asking for a meeting on the same day after one conversation, you broke a whole other set of rules. Never go out for a first date at night, always go to a very public place that you know, don’t let them drive you around, and so on. You said you drove a white ’90s kidnap vehicle and you’d pick me up in half an hour for tea. The tea deterred me for a second, but it really was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
So usually cautious twenty-something me, who has back-up plans for back-up plans, set off on a drive with a stranger, leaving behind his name and number with the concerned roommate in case a police complaint became necessary. The moment I laid my eyes on you, and you confirmed it soon after, I realized we weren’t each other’s type at all. And wasn’t that a relief (Not at all a waste of a lovely night)! I had, quite inadvertently, managed to do what I’d been trying Tinder out for in the first place- to make a friend.
Thus began the thrice-weekly, sometimes more, tea sessions and driving around Trivandrum, amiably bickering over whose music taste is classier (yours, hands down) and whether tea is better than coffee (not in this lifetime). I made friends with a rich guy with a family business and realized just how much of it is stereotype, and it’s definitely one of the few times I’ve loved having been proved wrong. I made friends with a boy seemingly from a different world, and realized loneliness and dreams pretty much taste the same, everywhere.
I remember, out of our ten- twelve meetings spread over two months, there was this one night when it rained a lot. We got caught in the rain when we were leaving the tea shop and we ran the last few metres to the car, laughing, as we hurled ourselves inside, completely drenched. I remember thinking to myself, that in a movie, they’d have placed a kiss here, because it would be the sequence expected of a man and a woman in that position, in an isolated place. I remember thinking how nice it was, that we didn’t have to. That at least in that one white kidnap vehicle, two strangers, a man and a woman could build a world where they could be comfortably friends without anything getting in the way. You let me pick the next song, and then proceeded to laugh at it. It was very nice.
You broke every rule I had in the best way possible. You helped me find new memories in old places, in a town that I was sure had scarred me forever. And I don’t know if you fully understood why I gave you a gift that I had painted, made by hand- but it was only because in our brief time, we created something and sent it out into the world, something intangible and positive. In a world always threatening to send us off balance for being romantically alone, for those few weeks, we sent out an answer. It is an answer I like very much.
I shall go and listen to the songs you sent me, and think of you fondly as I often do. May your ways guide you towards greater light, my friend.