Letters to no one

Ms./Mrs. Random Old Lady

 The footpath near St. James School

Calcutta 

Kolkata

I don’t know if you still live at this address. I don’t know your name. I think you might have died. You were quite old then, and it’s been almost eight years since that day I met you. I remember being sad. Before I met you. After I met you. There are flavours to sadness just like there are in coffee- there’s latte sadness, for the time when,say, you lose one of your favourite pair of earrings, and then there is a double ristretto,  a dark,brooding mess, when you feel everything that you have is slipping away. My sadness that day was somewhere in between, when I casually walked out of the house, hoping no one would see that, in reality, I was storming out.

I remember walking aimlessly, the only direction in my mind: Away. Away from death, away from morbidity, away from the endless discussions centred around a few lines of a medical diagnosis. Now, I can’t even remember who it is that was ill. So many have passed, they’re all blurred in my head. I only know that they loved me, and I must have loved them as well.

So I walked. Past giggling school students, teashop owners, women with vegetable-laden shopping bags- their damp blouses letting the light brown of their skin peek out in places. I moved as if in a dream, contemplating life and death until that great equalizer, hunger, played its drums in my stomach. Descending from plane infinity to ground zero, I stopped at a tea stall, gazing at people who seemed far too happy, especially through the mist in my eyes.

Perhaps, I noticed you because you were staring at me. Rather, not at me, but at the biscuit in my hand. I’m writing to you today because I don’t want you to keep thinking I bought you the biscuits because I cared, or anything like that. I was just a self-obsessed teenager wanting something to come and set her world right again. Even when I sat down next to you, I was jealous of you. Jealous of how cheaply your happiness could be bought. Ten rupees. Why couldn’t I have it too?

Well, I did get some of it. When you patted my head and smiled, still lost in your own little world where dinner would be biscuits. But I was greedy, I wanted all of it. I wanted to push away all the sadness. Even for a little while. I went home soon after that and told them all about it. Told them how happy it made you ,and how happy it made me. The thing about happiness, I think, is that when you see people happy,you desperately want to be a part of it, at least for a while. Just for a while, no one spoke of death and darkness and doctors. They spoke of biscuits, and kindness, and gifts.

Now I’m older, and when I look back, I’m not so sure. Of you, your happiness, my happiness. I only hope you’ve moved to a better address. Because I do care, a little bit.

*Published on The Scribbled Stories*

 

 

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To my love, who smells of sea-salt

You came to me amidst
the sudden fog of clarity
that accompanies realization,
A conversation
drunk on starlight.

You came to me silently
with measured steps,testing
the storm you were facing,
a hurricane racing
down a blind alley.

You came to me like a twig,
The first in nesting season,
Whispers of reason,
To build again,
And now I need none.

Full Stop.

Until a few years ago, I used to be very judgemental towards suicide. I think most of us are, at some point. No, I’m not insinuating a lack of sympathy for the victims- all I’m saying is that we tend to think, “I could never do that! It’s cowardly, escapist, not a solution”. Well, the “I could never do that” part is true for quite a number of people, because they’re made that way. It is equally true that some people are not made that way. As with most things, I stopped sneering at suicide the day it hit me that I wanted to end my own life- I hate judging myself, don’t you?

What I’m trying to focus on is the interpretation of events in light of the recent suicide of a student in my country. This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened. I’m still struggling to fully understand the intricate dynamics of caste issues in India- it is evident that there is a problem, a serious one at that, one that has existed for generations and needs to be acknowledged and dealt with. It is very important to impartially examine the circumstances of this death and charge the real culprits who instigated such an occurrence. However, what I’m somewhat apprehensive about is the way the incident is being tinged with the caste flavour, in an unhealthy way.

It seems that the agenda is dominated by what caste the deceased belonged to, rather than the fact that a promising young student was compelled to take his own life. Would we not have risen in protest had the victim not belonged to a socially disadvantaged group? A young mind and spirit has been lost forever, one of the thousands who are supposed to nurture India.  Forgive me for the use of the adjective ‘beautiful’ but there is no other way to describe Rohit’s last words, where it is made amply clear that this is beyond religion, caste and region. This is about us as individuals, rational, thinking minds, who dream of stardust and the Universe. This is about people who still believe in the goodness of human effort, and are trying their best not to lose faith in a civilization that has let them down far too often. It is about those who are trying to convince others not to divide themselves over boundaries created by some men. And those who have admitted defeat and joined forces with the blindness, in a bid to survive.

To those who will tell me that I really don’t understand, maybe I don’t. But then,  perhaps you don’t either. The discrimination you go through every moment is ugly, and I stand with you against it. But I implore you to realize that for every day that you hold on to an “us against them” attitude, there will be more deaths. On both ‘sides’. On only one side. Humanity.

 

 

 

 

Rant

You frustrate me. You take me to breathtaking cliffs of joy and then leave me there- you know I don’t know how to climb down; you know I’ll have to jump.  I keep trying to hold on to the best in myself, to rise above pettiness- you drag me down to the infernal depths of jealousy and anger and possessiveness. I used to be just fine before I met you- beautiful, in fact, in my emptiness. My void was my sense of purpose- it drove me. You weigh me down like a rich dessert, so delectable to taste, yet a plateful of gluttony, no less.

They say so many things of love, the way it uplifts and shows you the heavens- they say nothing of how it strips you bare, and lashes your skin with the air of indifference, and clings to you like a shadow, reminding you that you’re not alone. You’re never alone any more, you see? Do you see what that means? Cast your romanticism aside. It is the most frightening thing you will ever face. The inability to see yourself on your own. Run from love, my friends, as fast as you can. It snatches the solace of your solitude for all of eternity.

 

To my little cousin

I know you’ll protest that you’re not quite so little . Yes, it is true, that. Had you been in the USA, you would’ve been old enough to drive a car. You’re setting out to do new things in life, you’ve fallen in love- yes, not so young any more. Forgive me, I still see the baby boy who’d tag along after me with a picture book about a parrot,begging me to tell him the story. The chubby kid grinning toothily as he pushed his toy car with his feet- I still remember the day you learnt to pedal.

It is amazing to see the wonderful young man you’ve become- and I do realize that is a very sappy, grown up thing to say. I am a sappy grown-up now, perhaps. It is a bitter-sweet feeling to see you in love- to hear you write and talk about your dreams.  Your love is brilliant. You love with a confidence I can never hope to regain.

Somewhere within me there are two sides at war. There is a person who wants you to have every experience, good or bad, because every day is a gear in the machine of life,making it move. She knows that you need to fall, she knows it will only take you higher.

And then there is your older sister, and that part would do anything to shield you from anything that can break you. That part would trade her already fragmented soul to keep your fairy tale intact. Just so you never have to know pain. Yes, there is always pain, even in the happiest of times. Especially in the happiest of times.

All of me wants you to win. All of me wants you to prove the world wrong. To survive unscathed through the pain. To write as pure a love poem as you do now even when you are scorched. Things will break, you know, they always do. But there is a light in you and that light will always shine through.

And even if this makes no sense now, some day you’ll know exactly why I wrote to you.

Letter to my thirteen-year-old self

Dear Amrita,

Remember that time last week you beamed with pride when someone said you are practically an adult? That’s great,but there’ll be enough time to be an adult later, be a teen now(Being an adult is over-rated anyway).

Did you throw away that poem you wrote yesterday- the one Mom laughed at, the “carrot-parrot” rhyme? Go get it from the bin, smooth out the paper and save it- there’ll be a day when a whole lot of people will tell you that your latest poem touched their hearts. Save it, so you can see that silly poems aren’t such a bad place to begin.

Let me tell you a secret. Parents aren’t really parents, they’re people like you and me. The next time you have a fight with them, sulk a while, then go make up with them- the way you would with your best friend or cousin. There’s another person in Mom and in Dad, one that’ll always be as old as you are- find that one, and you’ll be friends forever.

Don’t hide those tears next time they threaten to spill. Don’t run to the bathroom. One of the most difficult things you’ll need to learn is how to cry. And the sooner you learn the better. It won’t give away your weaknesses- it is the bravest thing you’ll ever do.

Don’t keep friends because everyone says you need to have a few. Get to know people. You’ll find them, the special ones, sometimes in the likely places and sometimes in the unlikely ones.

Don’t worry if you don’t know what your “thing” is- the one thing you’re meant for. Chances are, you won’t know that even when you’re an adult. Life’s about the journey- not just the destination. The places you stop at, the people whose lives you touch, that will matter more.

When it seems like things are bad- that fight in school, your weight, someone’s boyfriend, your lack of one- just remember. It’ll get worse. 😀 Okay, that was too pessimistic. Yes it’ll get worse, it’ll also get better. You’ll find battles worth fighting, and you’ll find your comrades.

Sometimes the worst enemy is your own mind. Know when your mind is playing games with you. Start making your own moves, and win.

You’ll be alright .

Love,

Amrita

That girl

I still love that girl on the other side. I’ve known her for twenty odd years- the messy hair, dark eyes, a forgettable face to most people, perhaps. I’ve always found it beautiful. So have a select few others. I’ve never voiced it out loud, what’s the point? People wouldn’t really agree, but then they’d smile and say yes, the way they do when they try to encourage individuality.

She’s not the kind of girl you’d notice first, or even second, she always gets picked last, as she once laughingly told me. She doesn’t do things the way they should be done, even though she can. “You like me, don’t you?”, she asks. “Yes. Yes I do.”

“Then I don’t need to change to fit their ways.” she grins. That smile has been losing its shine these days. Or maybe I just haven’t cleaned the mirror in a long time.

Photo credits-http://pre03.deviantart.net/e688/th/pre/i/2012/072/3/4/the_girl_in_the_mirror_by_debbysh-d4smk4c.jpg