Father Told Me What Serendipity Means

My father met my mother at a bus stop.

He had been late that day. He’d gotten late because a pigeon had entered his apartment and he had had to shoo it out before he left. How fate works, he muses, every time he tells us the story. So after a terrible morning, he had left home cursing the Universe, a young adult travelling to get to his first job with sleep on his mind and a calculator in his hand.

At the bus stop he saw an entirely different set of people today, being there himself an hour later than usual. He saw a girl standing with her friend, in a long green skirt and with a flower in her hair. Not a gajra that would hang by a plait the way it did on most Indian women. No, her hair was open and flying all over the place and the flower was pivoted right above her ear. Hibiscus, he says. But mom swears it was a rose. Anyway, it didn’t serve any real purpose except to attract his attention.

“The bus reaches by 10 everyday, I don’t know why it’s so late today!” she whined, half-smiling. It was 10.10 then, dad says. And then, he says, she looked at him and smiled, oblivious to the light emanating from her soul and the little hipster city she single handedly created inside the ventricles of his rural geeky heart. I think he meant he fell in love but it seemed too abrupt a decision, so he decided to go with being poignant.

I’d seen pretty girls smile at me before; he says when we accuse him of being easy to please. He says this was different. How?  We ask.  Oh I don’t know. I just wanted to see her smile again. And again. Forever.

And as it happened, for weeks and weeks he’d leave home late and work late just to see my mother at the bus every day. He wouldn’t talk to her or even make eye-contact. He’d just wait for her to smile. And she did, his 50 year old cheeks still blush as he tells us, Every day she’d turn and smile and make my mornings beautiful.

Finally one morning it was raining and my mother’s friend was absent. She saw my father standing under an umbrella and asked if she could share it. It’s not like he offered it or anything, he was so shy, my mother usually likes to join in the story at this point, after a few minutes of blushing and ‘oh-you’ing. That’s when they spoke for the first time, and my father learned that mother would cut morning class every day, and so he asked her to attend it so he could go to work on time. Then onwards, she’d catch the 9 am bus with him every morning.

And he’d buy me a rose everyday for my hair, mum says as if to wrap up the story.

They narrate this so often, I begin to think they are trying to make a point. I finally ask them after one of their routine Sunday morning narrations of how they met, what is it they are trying to tell me?

Wait for someone who’ll put effort into you, says Dad.

Mom smiles and takes me to the kitchen. That’s true, she says, I didn’t even notice him much to begin with, but I’d see his eyes light up when I smiled at him, so I smiled at him. I knew he was getting late. Every day. But once I’d smiled his way he’d stop fidgeting with his pocket pen and checking the time and just sit up straight and beam at nothingness.
But even though the effort bit is true, that’s not my intention of telling you the story.

Well what is it? I ask.

She smiles her miracle of a smile at me and says; Never touch anything with half your heart.

 

“Where is your native?”

I think I’ll miss the weather the most.    

I did make some friends in this city, of course I did. All kinds of randos. Friends who made me fluffy little omeletts when I was unwell, or just because it was a Sunday morning, friends who’d discuss the intricacies of life and love with me as they fixed their hair in the mirror, friends who’d somehow always have an appetite for a fourth Jagerbomb…

And yet, I think I’ll miss the weather the most.

When it rains in Bangalore, the roads begin to sparkle. Everything suddenly goes HD. And sometimes, if you’re lucky to be in a place where you can look far off enough into the sky, you can see a rainbow. It lies there, inconspicuous, so aware of its beauty it’s almost trying to hide. You aren’t looking for it, but your eyes fall on it. And you feel this momentary surge of happiness within you before you forget about it and get on with your busy busy life.

So often we chance upon people in the same way.

I’ve grown to love the city. Its canopied roads and little cafés, its coconut water and filter coffee. People want to get to know you, here more than anywhere I’ve ever been. And at nightclubs there’s the added challenge of getting to know someone before the 11pm deadline, almost as if mum’s set a curfew just so you only build the bridges you’re destined to.

I love a city that appreciates art. There’s graffiti on the walls that line busy roads and Rangoli outside the courtyards of little white houses and phone numbers scribbled behind bus seats with descriptive diagrams of what they deliver, but how many of us actually stop to look? Art can be a lot to look at. There are love notes and doodles forgotten; only seen by those willing to look, singing a song heard by those willing to hear, the raindrops setting the tempo in the background more often than not, bringing a smile to my face almost as if they deliver blessings when they fall on my skin.

 We all start as strangers. But everyone knows strangers have the best candy.

 So I ventured out, the aspiring adult that I was, living through the people I met and the sights I saw, getting attached to everything that had a beating heart and a story to tell, oblivious to the permanence of the bonds I forged and  ignorant to the fact that you can’t make homes out of human beings.

When a person leaves his city to travel, he has experiences that change him to the very core, and so when he returns he doesn’t fit in, because he’s grown with those experiences. He’s part of a different puzzle now. “Where is your native?” people seem to want to know all the time. I don’t know. I don’t know if it matters.

It’s not the puzzle I’m a part of, this is.

 We find our happy in strange random things; oddly enough, and for reasons lost in time, karaoke was my strange random thing, even if it involved a raging dislike for girls who can wear crop tops and leggings and sit with their legs crossed on barstools.

Like seriously, what is up with that? How do your intestines and stuff fit inside that?

 Anyway, there’s something about people singing at the top of their voices, grinning as they fumble to rap fast enough, dancing and swaying to fill the gaps in lyrics; freestyling their own versions of classics we all know because life’s too short to be predictable, and at the end of the day, just like these mashed up songs, we’re all merged into each other’s consciousness. And even as I leave I know there’s a little bit of something you in everything me.

 That’s why I think I’ll miss the weather the most. It’s the only thing I’m leaving without.

Two Ponytails

‘Di? Di?’ said the little boy, as he tore his gaze away from the open book on the table and focused his attention on his older sister, who was sitting on the bed and staring blankly at her phone.

Zoya looked at him, and nodded in acknowledgement.

‘Why don’t you ever make two ponytails?’

‘Because,’ she said passively, and went back to staring at her phone.

‘Tell na Di!’

‘What happened, Adi? Why do you want me to make two ponytails?’ said Zoya, now sitting up and noticing her brother for the first time.
He glanced sheepishly at the book in front of him before lifting it and setting it on Zoya’s lap. She watched as he traced his tiny fingers over the page titled Class Photograph 2013-2014: Nursery B, till they came to rest on a tiny face of a girl.

‘Di, see Meher. She’s the prettiest girl in my class and she always makes two ponytails.’

Zoya couldn’t help but smile as she got up from the bed, and looked at herself in the mirror. She decided to humour her baby brother for a bit.
‘So tell me more about this Meher,’ she said, running the comb through her hair and parting it into two halves.

‘She makes the best drawings in class.’

‘Okay, what else?’

’ And she likes strawberry ice candy. And after she eats it her lips become very pink.’

‘So do you talk to…?’

‘And she doesn’t like it when boys talk to her,’ he said impatiently, his gaze sad and steady on the photograph.

‘Here I made two ponytails. Happy?’ said Zoya, studying her twenty year old face in the mirror.

Aditya looked up expectantly and saw her. A frown swiftly set upon his face, his nose crinkled and his mouth went askew. He looked back at the photograph, as if to ensure she’d copied it right, then looked up again at her, disbelieving.

‘Oh…’

‘Do you like Meher more or Di more, Adi?,’ she asked, teasing him.

He picked up the book, threw one last disappointed glance at the sister he so admired, turned around and left the room, mumbling something that sounded like ‘You, Di. But she looks better in two ponies.’

Some People are Home

I walk out in an old red t-shirt, at its faded best.

The sun is harsh, but I’ve become used to it, such that I am aware of it but it doesn’t really bother me. We take the long winding route to the badminton courts. There’s a shorter route, mind you, paved and all. Right through the heart of the college campus. But this winding route, even in the heat, has some sort of appeal to it. So we take it. She and I. I haven’t known her long. But long enough, I have. And as we walk, we talk of what we know of each other. Then we stop talking, and our thoughts drift to our respective worlds.  And then there’s that comfortable silence. The one that, sometimes, feels like the best conversation you may have ever had.

Why are some people so easy to be with, I wonder? Things click, they get you, and suddenly, you’re not the only one. Anywhere. Anytime.

We enter the badminton courts. Now, in all honesty, badminton and I are like an eraser and an ink pen. We may as well be related, but we have issues, if you know what I mean. We get on the court and start playing.
See, this is the beauty of it. As she makes me run all over the court, with all her ‘baddy expertise’, and I keep missing every shot (like seriously, EVERY shot), I grin at her through the net.
She grins back.
And how.
As if to say “Yes sugar, you suck, but I love you.”

We play a little. I tire soon and she moves on to another game. Wow, she does play well. Every game she wins, she shoots me a dazzler across the room. I shoot one back. Then I hop back onto the court with a bunch of three other girls. I’ve seen them around for over a year, yet I don’t know a single one’s name. Maybe it doesn’t matter. We start playing.
They’re all better, of course.
I miss.
Twice.
Thrice.
My ears turn red.
Damn it! No one’s grinning at me when I screw up now.
While I’m thinking this, I see the shuttle moving towards me faster than ever before.
AAAAAAH! And I slip.
Great.

Just great.

But I see the curly haired girl walking towards me, laughing her lungs out. And before I know it, I’m laughing too. So are the other two across the net. And all of a sudden, it’s so easy.

Yes, the net is still finding the shuttle insanely attractive after every shot I hit. But I see mild smiles now. Ah, confidence. Now we’re all ramming the shuttle into the net. This is fun! By the end of the hour, I know their names.  I catch her outside, and we head back to the hostel. And I think of my hometown, my friends there, our conversations of boys and dresses and the latest fads, strutting around in our heels and shades, memorizing every nook and cranny of each mall.
Ridiculous, really.

We reach the hostel in silence, split to go to our rooms. I know she’s upstairs right now, bathing or watching Scrubs or something. I don’t miss her, no, but there’s a certain comfort in her being around.
There.
Accessible.
If there’s a thin line between friends and family, I wouldn’t know what side of it she lays. I look at my old red t-shirt, at its faded best, and think,

Hell, it’s good to be home.

 

Top Five Pick-Me-Ups for a Dreary Wednesday Morning

And then there’s days I just write about music that makes me smile.

Top Five Records

Coffee It is said that Mondays are the dreariest days of the workweek, but we think it’s actually Wednesdays: that doldrum of restlessness and ennui in the middle of a seemingly never-ending workweek. But let’s think positively. When life gives you lemons, there’s nothing like a perky new song to brighten up your day. Give our top five a shot and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

5. “Cups” by Anna Kendrick

Originally recorded by the Carter Family in 1931, this song was revived in 2009 by the band Lulu and the Lampshades, followed by Anna Burden in 2011, when it went viral thanks to the combination of the cup game with the song.  Anna Kendrick performed it in 2012 on the soundtrack of Pitch Perfect.

The song starts with a bunch of beats that may seem unusual at first; that is, until you realise they’re being generated by cups…

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What I Learned from the Little Prince

Once I was done reading the book, I was left with a bittersweet feeling. It was beautiful, so beautiful that it made me wish I’d written it. They say our thoughts tend to sound better in books we didn’t write and songs we didn’t sing. Even then, sometimes there is no song, no work of art, and no piece of literature that can really explain how we feel. And there’s a mysterious comfort in knowing that nobody really knows.

Well, The Little Prince shook my walls a bit. He knew.

Grown-ups love figures… When you tell them you’ve made a new friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you “What does his voice sound like? What games does he love best? Does he collect butterflies?”
Instead they demand “How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make?”
Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him.

How true it is, in the world today. I judge you by your academic qualifications and your monthly income. I stereotype you by the shape of your eyes or the color of your skin. I rank you by your ability to add value to my social image.
What happened to the days I would befriend you because we liked the same music, or because your responses seemed to be in tandem with my thoughts. When I would love you because my crazy didn’t seem crazy around you, it felt like home.
Sometimes I feel I don’t belong to people. You know, all the leap days that didn’t happen? Those moments when you leave your physical self for what seems like a lifetime and only when you return do you realize you were away for just a minute or two. Those times when you walk in to a room and forget why. I feel like that’s where I belong. That’s my time and space. And there are others there too. So many others. Our hearts hum the same tune and our eyes crave the same color, and yet I’ll never meet them because of these socio-economic cages that bind me.
It’s been a while since I jumped into a puddle with someone. Or shared a cream filled biscuit after licking the cream off it first.  I wish I could.

All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.

“Act your age” they always say. Why? Why would something that brings a smile upon my face change with age? I’m twenty two years old and I’ve painted over twenty canvases that I’m crazy proud of, yet when I sit down with a coloring book and wax pastels and manage to color the entire picture in a homogeneous stroke within the lines, my glee knows no bounds.
Acting one’s age has somehow become synonymous with the behavior society would deem acceptable for that age. Sometimes one doesn’t change with age; people don’t always want to conform to society. Sometimes we want to express how we feel without wondering what the world has to say. Sometimes, when all you have is old words, all you can do is put them together and hope they say something new.

Words are the source of misunderstandings.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel so much for so many people, and sooner or later I realize that my limited vocabulary cannot convey things I have to say. So I look at them for a second longer, smile with my eyes; feel, really feel what I’m feeling, hoping I’ll reach out to them in some sort of positive energy, because words say so much yet say so little. When you count on cosmic vibes to pour love on someone, you have less of a chance of being misunderstood. People everywhere are so scared of that word these days.

Love.

‘ You’re in love with me? But I barely know you.’
‘I can’t love you when you love someone else.’
‘Do you believe in love?’

It’s just love, people. It’s a feeling you have no control over. It’s not Santa Claus and it’s not rocket science. And thanks to all this American sitcom propaganda, it’s on its way to becoming a word people don’t use.
But then there are us few, who belong to the leap days that didn’t happen, who crave to hear that word. What about us?

You’re beautiful, but you’re empty…One couldn’t die for you. Of course, an ordinary passerby would think my rose looked just like you. But my rose, all on her own, is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered. Since she’s the one I put under glass, since she’s the one I sheltered behind the screen. Since she’s the one for whom I killed the caterpillars. Since she’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Since she’s my rose.

And yet, even with the billions of beautiful, fractal thoughts that crossed my mind as I read the simple yet powerfully illustrated pages of the Little Prince, this one particular idea just blew the wind out of me. I’ve lived my life trying to get the best deals for myself everywhere. At the grocery store, at the parlour, hell, even in relationships. It comes back to society, full circle, it really does. If I’m with a man who’s fun and gorgeous, I need stimulating conversation. If he’s smart and funny, I need him to be sophisticated. If he has a great personality I need him to have a wonderful career. For so long it was about finding the perfect guy, and not about finding the perfect guy for me. That’s where we fall short these days. That’s why happiness is getting tougher to come by.

I remember as a little girl I had a bunch of Barbie dolls. I was little in the 90’s, when a Barbie doll was an acceptable and appreciated gift for all little girls all over the world. As a result, I had quite the bevy of them on display in my room, in neat pink little boxes with their extra set of clothes or their Ken doll in the background. Some even came with a complementary tub or hair-do set. And I kept them in their neat pink little boxes, on display, for years and years. I never played with them, never. Not even when I had friends over. My grandmother had made a cloth doll when I was 6, with jute hair and stitched on dimples. There was way too much cotton in the stomach area, now that I think back. But she was cute, soft and over the years, I’d sat with grammy and stitched different pairs of clothes for her. I did find the other dolls lovely, with their long lean legs and fancy eyes, but I never cared for them. And yet, because of the time and effort I’d put into the cloth doll, I loved her with all my heart. The best deal didn’t matter.

Love is really as simple as that.

Sepia-toned Reflections

“It’s somewhere I can taste the salty sea
There’s a kite blowing out of control on the breeze
I wonder what’s gonna happen to you
You wonder what has happened to me”

The voice inside speaks up. No way, you will not snooze the alarm clock again. Out of bed. Now.

NOW!

No, wait, he looked rather cute in that scene of my dream. Two quick minutes. Two, I promise.

And then she cosies up once again, with her many pink pillows and the blanket that looks like it OD-ed on fluff, and gets back to her wool-gather.
That’s the best part about dreaming – you rule the world, all its physics and geography and background music.

It’s hot, really really hot. And still. No wind. Every leaf, every feather, lifeless.

“But I want to learn how to fly it!” she squeals, throwing her kite up in the air and running,  praying this time it will stay up, till it crash lands into the grass for the forty second time that morning.

His voice is like it always it, strong, masculine, and effortlessly confident.

“There, there”. He runs, picks up the kite, and stares at it. She’d finally torn it. After all the attacks, the pink background paper of the kite he’d picked for her finally gave way to the outline of the heart pasted on it.

“Want to go to the football field?  There are a lot of people flying kites there.”

“No, you teach me here first”

She’d never make a fool of herself in front of the world. He, however, was her personal space. He was allowed to watch her kooky moments. He might have even loved her for them.
She’d never know.

She didn’t realise when it happened. One moment, she was counting the colours in his eyes as he held her hand, the next, she was holding the kite, flying it, for real, as he held her spool and cheered her on. It might have been a bird in the sky, or a plane.

Too many people, kite flying was a sport for them. She tugs hard to save her kite from being cut.

Ouuuuuch! Damn that glass thread!

But they cut it, her kite, and she watches it as it flies higher up into the sky, getting smaller by the second.

Sigh.
He comes and gives her a bear hug. She didn’t lose her kite, after all, because nobody caught it once it had been cut. Were those the rules?

It’s somewhere I can taste the salty sea
There’s a kite blowing out of control on the breeze
I wonder what’s gonna happen to you
You wonder what has happened to me

She couldn’t see it anymore, but the thought of it flying high, far far away, coupled with the bear hug, was brilliant. He looked at her in his arms.

Click.

And like a sepia toned love note, that image will stay with her forever.

“Shall we?” he says, and smiles his gorgeous smile.

She looks at the boy, whose voice is the soundtrack of her life.

This wasn’t a dream. But it may as well have been one.  Reality wasn’t allowed to be so beautiful.

Personal Morsels

Ever look at a familiar word for so long that it starts to look, and sound, completely strange? That feeling’s called jamais vu. It’s kind of like the oppsosite of a deja vu, only a bit more terrifying I guess. Familiarity is comfort, isn’t it? For most people anyway.

Jamais vu. Happens when you’re in love sometimes. You wake up to the same face everyday, the same voice, you complete each others sentences and you find yourself at home and then one day, all of a sudden, you’re not the same person any more. It may be just you, it may be both you and him, it may be the entire world, but something changes. Something you’re not in control of. And the same universe that seemed to be conspiring to set you guys up for life now just seems to want to pull you apart.

And somewhere along the road you realise, you still know him as you once knew him and he changes and you change and now it’s just a mess because the new you knows the old him and that’s hardly of any use. But that’s if you knew him at all, in the first place.

And what is love?

Billion dollar question, that one. People have spent their lives writing pages and pages, trying to put it in words, creating music with the wildest assortment of instruments to convey their interpretation of love, painted a thousand canvases to recreate the imagery, and somehow, somewhere down the line, when they didn’t find the right answer, they just stopped looking. It’s sad, it truly is, but the fact of the matter is, you can’t live your life trying to pixelate a fractal idea.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know what love is. There’s been a few times in my life I thought I did, but I don’t. I know Math, I really know my mom, I know the peach blouse goes with the mint jeans if I accessorise right. Love, I don’t know.

It’s unfamiliar territory. Even if it’s just from jamais vu.

 

 

Mechanics of Dreams

There’s a ship that set sail really long back. It’s loaded with food and wine and promises of a better future. It’s well lit and pretty, the entertainment on board is a little dull, but hey, it promises of a better future. It’s got a mighty anchor. No matter how far out at see you may be, no matter how bad the storm may get, that anchor will keep the ship safe. So they never leave the ship un-anchored. In time, the lovely feasts begin to feel mundane and the music ceases to soothe the ears. The ship is still sailing, content; safe. You dream of life on the port you set out to reach and it keeps you going, with its promises of a better future.

But one day, you get tired. You creep out in the middle of the night when everybody’s asleep and remove the anchor. Out on the deck, you feel the cool sea breeze slap your face, reprimanding you playfully for the naughty deed. The waves climb onto you, wetting your clothes as you enjoy the chill of the night.

But the ship is now in random motion, going its own way. You see land, and get a little excited. But no, that’s not the land you set out to reach. It does not promise a better future. So the people in charge sail the ship back to where it lost its way, anchor it once more, so it’s safe, and wait for it to drift to the port they set out to reach.

But sometimes, sometimes, somewhere down the road you realise that you’re intended destination isn’t where you want to go any more. Or that even if it still is your dream, you aren’t enthusiastic about it anymore. They say it’s the journey that matters. Well, they’re right. Pull out that anchor and once in a while, let the waves take control.

Nothing promises of a better future like a heady journey.

The Numb Ones Are Missing Out

Feelings are simple. We cry, we laugh, we get angry and we get scared. We get upset and we get sad. And that’s okay, because we’re wired that way. People keep saying, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey. What is the journey, really, but an emotional rollercoaster? What is happiness when you don’t know what sorrow is? You need to experience the black and the white to really appreciate the beauty of both.

Picture4

It’s simple. When you’re going through a phase in life that overwhelms you with emotion and you take a nap just to take a break from it all, is it really a break? You dream. Your desires show up there too. Your disappointments. Everything you need and want and cannot have. And then you wake up and all those over whelming emotions are back again. All at once, like a tsunami hitting land for the very first time. It all comes back the very second you wake up, the dream first, the realization of your emotions in the dream, and then the happiness causing agent or the feeling of impending doom that lies ahead on the road you’re taking.

Okay, so, it’s a little difficult. Life isn’t supposed to be hard. Or complicated. It’s supposed to be easy. And it is. We just complicate it a lot in our heads to end up feeling what we’re feeling. We have grown to become a breed of over analysing over contemplating thinkers, just because it’s in our capacity to. The lucky ones just switch off. That’s mighty convenient, because they claim that they stop feeling anything and I’m not really sure how that works. You ever hear these lines? ‘I can’t let anyone in’ or ‘I’m emotionally numb’. It’s all in the head. And yet, that’s enough to protect them from the big bad world. It’s like saying, yeah I want to live, but I don’t want to live a lot. I want the experience of the journey but not the emotions that go with it. When you say you don’t want a trough in life you automatically cancel out the possibility of a crest as well. And so you stop feeling the black and white and live in grey for the rest of your days.

And that’s just too bad. Because you’re wired that way. And it makes you miss out on pretty much everything life is really about.