Why I Write What I Write

I still vaguely remember the first love letter I wrote. I was a few days short of twelve. The letter smelled of strawberry and Chanel No. 5, because I couldn’t decide whether I should use my own perfume or my grandmother’s, so I used both. My hand-writing was punctuated with curly ends and heart-topped ‘i’s, the kind of precision only seventh-grade girls in love had patience for. Hidden behind the words were indents and scratches, ghosts of words that weren’t quite right, rewrites on top of rewrites.

I don’t think I ever gave it to the intended. I just wrote the letter to feel it. It’s been ten years and it’s still the same reason I write things.
I write things to really feel them.

I’ve met and befriended an immodest number of people in life, and I’ve realised that even though people are different, they’re all enigmatic. They all have a secret world inside of themselves. Each and every person, no matter how dull or boring on the outside, has a world inside that’s wonderful, crazy, wild and awe-inspiring. And if you give them a chance, they’ll show it to you. Not just one world, hundreds, sometimes thousands. And the quietest ones, the over thinkers, are more afraid of being understood than being misunderstood. That’s why I write.
I write to really understand people.

Sometimes we love and sometimes we hate and there’s so much that goes on in our minds as we eat, work, play and sleep and think we’re living life. But life is what happens in the interstices, like when we manage to smile through our tears at a darling child or when we drift away into a daydream or when our memory asks us about someone we once loved. There are days that question and days that answer.
I write to relive the interstices.

Feelings are visitors, they come and go. So are people. And although people of the past should be forgotten, I don’t thing feelings should. Every thing I ever let go of has claw marks on it; held back in the hope of not making it stay but extracting all feeling I could from it. I want to allow beauty to shatter me regularly; I want to feel life while I’m in it. Sometimes I write down things people say, because they resonate with me so much. Maybe our favorite quotations say more about us than about the people and stories we quote.
I write what should not be forgotten.

Our thoughts tend to sound better in songs we didn’t sing and books we didn’t write, and when I leave people speechless, or welled-up, or disturbed or a little dreamier, I feel like a part of their story. I feel closer to them and that’s why I share everything I feel.
I write so one day I won’t have to introduce myself.

Above everything else, it’s about leaving a mark that I existed. I was here. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea and I had a purpose. That’s why I made works of art. – Felix Gonzalez-Torres

I want to fill my life with experiences, not things.
And in the end, I want to have stories to tell, not stuff to show.

 

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The Anchor That Gave Way

I’ve loved one man for what feels like eternity. You know the feeling, when someone’s just around so much that you kind of get into the habit of having them around. And you don’t remember a time they weren’t there? That’s probably why those two years feel like eternity.

People love the sight of a happy couple, each element spectacular in its own way, yet somehow only complete as a whole. They idealize the couple, encourage the relationship, and celebrate its prosperity. It’s a wonderful feeling to be in a relationship like that.

And then the fights start.

About things that matter, at first.
Then, about things that don’t really matter so much.
And then, just because. Because of ego and arrogance and who has the upper hand and because, in a relationship, you get what give.

I’ve loved one man for what feels like eternity.
You get used to things, you know. The good morning texts, the smell of his hair, the way his arm feels around your waist, the look in the honey brown of his eye as he watches you sleep.
You get used to other things too, his un-ironed shirts, his funny hairstyle, his morning baritone and his concerned questions. And you slowly learn to appreciate everything, not because of love, but because you feel safe with the things that feel familiar. And no matter where you go and what you do, at the end of the day, after all the fame and money and popularity and attention, all you really want is to come home.

It’s a curious feeling; losing someone you love. It makes you wonder, what if? What if I’d called him that day? What if I’d always answered all his questions patiently? What if I’d moved to his city even though he never asked? I should have known, right?
But then you begin to ask yourself different questions, and that’s where it gets really messed up. What if he isn’t the one for me in the first place? What if all the fights just stem from the fact that he doesn’t get me and I don’t get him and nothing can ever be done about it? And then you look out the window and sigh as the last of the raindrops falls to the ground and you wish you had some way of looking into the future and seeing what it’s like.

I used to close my eyes and see images of what our future would look like. I’d see him in the garden, with our little girl on a tricycle, barbequing the chicken I’d just marinated, looking up at me and smiling, not having to say anything to convey the feeling because in all those years we’d spent together, I’d learnt what each expression of his meant. And nobody knew but he had a secret smile and he’d use it only for me. And as I looked at him, a warm fuzzy feeling went straight from my heart to my toes and me eyes would well up because in my heart I knew it’s hard to keep intact something that’s so perfect.
And suddenly, I can’t see that image any more. I see a figure in the garden, but I’m not so sure of it. The little girl doesn’t have the straight silky hair she used to and the barbecue’s a disaster and the face looks up at me and smiles, but I can’t tell what the smile means. My heart’s racing with all the unfamiliarity haunting me and I open my eyes and blink hard to try and hold back the tears, as it sinks in that forever isn’t what it used to be.

I love watching people alone. Being themselves, nobody to judge them, nobody for them to impress. I love it when people are drunk and crying as they talk and you can’t make out word from word but you know every bit of it is sheer honesty. At weddings, when the bride first walks in and everyone turns to look at her, I turn to look at the groom because I love the look on his face at that moment. I love the look he’d give me when I’d wake him up with a kiss on his nose and he’d realise he was waking up to me. I fell in love with the innocence in our love, to be honest. That’s why it’s so hard.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. Well, Maya Angelou may have said this once but I too have learned it, from life, in general. I don’t remember what he said or what he did, but I know how he made me feel. His. He made me feel like I belonged to him. It’s a beautiful feeling, belonging to someone. It makes you a freer person. Makes you worry less and smile more. Your happiness multiplies when you share it with them and you sorrows disappear; it’s a wonderful feeling to just belong as you wear the smile they give you. Their love makes you beautiful.

But here’s the thing, if you got everything you wanted, you’d go mad. I want a dream proposal and an exquisite wedding and a long and happy marriage and I want it with him but if I did get it, I’d spend a lot of time worrying about how fragile it all is. There are too many mediocre things in life, and love shouldn’t be one of them. It should fill your heart and make you want to jump and sit down at the same time because the excitement of it all is wearing you down as it comes.

And maybe, maybe, what I feel for him is as epic as it gets. Maybe he just doesn’t feel the same way. And maybe there’s nothing anyone can do about it, except share exactly how they feel in the most beautiful way they know how and pray, pray really hard that it works. And in the odd case that it doesn’t, one can still save a smile because the only honest to god romantic thing left in this world is unrequited love. Sometimes your tank is fuelled up, but the tracks just end. And it’s not your fault and it’s not anyone else’s fault so you cry a little and wipe your tears and wait.

And you learn to build all your roads on today, because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight.

With every goodbye, you learn.

He’d always been everything. And this could be the end of everything, of my world as I know it. I can’t find another constant when all the equations are based on this one.
It’s as simple as that.

Ms. Kor

“Ms. Kor?”

Ray stood in the verandah inspecting the ruins of the once majestic house in front of him.

2B/ 29, the nameplate read, in moss covered bronze lettering.

There were creepers along the walls. His mother often said they caused a nasty mosquito problem in the monsoons, such creepers on walls. There was no doorbell, only an old sturdy door, with a brass knocker in the shape of a banana.

Weird, he thought.

Tak tak

Tak tak

Tak tak

“Ms. Ko-o-or?” he called out once again

He bent to rest the huge green package at his feet when all of a sudden the door flung open and a large woman stood there, with a white bob and a white beard working its way into her cleavage, the end of which seemed about a foot above his own head.

Boy, that’s one massive woman.

Age wrinkled her face as fat wrinkled her arms.

“Eh? What? What you want? Again you come? I no sell this house. My pappa’s house. Shoo. Shoooo!” she bellowed.

“Uhm. Hello, ma’am. There’s a delivery for Ms. Kor”

Her brows smoothed and she smiled. “Pizza you got?” she said, this time rather faintly, as thought she didn’t want anyone else to hear.

“No ma’am. Courier”

“Hain?”

“Are you Ms. Kor?”

“No. Myself Missus Kor”

“Oh, I see. Ma’am, is your daughter at home?”

“Eh you no shame or what? Coming at night asking for daughter!”

“Ma’am, there’s package for her.”

“Haan haan, nice idea. What package there is? Let me to see! How I know you not rapist or murderer? You rascal boys! Show me package now!”

“I’m sorry, ma’am. The package is confidential and can be delivered only to your daughter with her signature.”

“But I have no daughter”

He stared at her, incredulous, cursing his luck for being assigned this package. This woman had to be some sort of lunatic.

“Ma’am. Is there a Ms. Kor in this house?”

“Yes”

“Could you call her so I can give her this package”

The old woman giggled.

“Arey baba, now is her nap time. You come tomorrow in the morning, no?”

And she closed her door.

Just like that.

***

The next morning Ray found himself staring at the huge green package once again. He barely had any packages to deliver on his route for the day, and he didn’t really have anything to entertain himself with at home either. Weekends are useless, even the TV guys expect the whole town to be out and about, enjoying free time with their loved ones, broadcasting crap on prime-time weekend television for the lonely and loveless.

He studied the box. It was weirdly shaped. Sort of an irregular pentagon, with one edge slightly curved. He tried to imagine what it could be.  He’d never seen anything like it. It seemed scientifically elaborate, but that’s probably just what he thought because the ‘sender’ tag read:

Department of Neuro-Bio-Mimicry
University of
Azerbaijan

Then again, maybe it was the constant faint ticking sound that came from the package.

He took a bottle of cola from the fridge and set himself in his van to do the day’s work. After completing his route, he hovered around route 29, wondering if he should risk it with the maniacal giant woman again.

Ugh! One more try.

He hauled the package back into the delivery truck and set out for 2B/29.

The Kors, said a bronze nameplate, under the house number. He hadn’t noticed last night. In two years of his career, he’d never visited the same house twice, and so he’d never noticed much about any house.

 There’s always a first time for everything, he thought, as he knocked with the banana knocker. It looked more like a moon now, though. That makes more sense.

The door began to open slowly, as though by itself. A terrible smell made its way into his nostrils. Within a few seconds the door was wide open, and nobody could be seen. He heard a soft thud, and looked down to see a small girl, about four years of age, holding a large doll with a gold heart shaped charm around its neck. It read ‘Ms. Kor’.

“Ms. Kor?” said Ray, peering inside the house.

And this time, a young lady appeared. Her silhouette was rather unflattering for a woman of her age, boxy and flat, yet her face showed innocence.

“Hello, I have a parcel for Ms. Kor,” said Ray.

“Oh. I’m sorry. The only Ms. Kor here is Cherry’s doll” she smiled, as she took the little girl into her arms.
It was an ugly doll. It had black marks around its eyes and its limbs were floppy.

“Are you sure?”

“Why, yes, I’m certain. It must be for Mrs. Kor, Cherry’s grandmother.”

“Oh. Ok. Yeah I guess. Is she home?”

“Yes, just a minute.”

The little girl left in the lap of the lady, dropping her doll at the door. It looked up at him, long and hard, as though it were begging him to escape. Its beady eyes seemed to say “So what if I’m a doll? You know that parcel belongs to me! Don’t give it to that wretched old woman!”

He couldn’t stay there any longer. The doll’s beady eyes bore into his, and he broke into a sweat.  He grew restless and agitated, the stench was unbearable, and in his panic he turned on his heel, dragged the parcel down the stairs with him, lugged it back into the van, and drove as though he were driving for his life.

***

He had completed his deliveries for the day. As he drove his van home, he thought about the mysterious parcel of Ms. Kor. What had caused him to flee yesterday? He felt so stupid now, thinking back. He should have just given it to her and got a signature and his job would be done. But something stopped him each time. And now he had this tremendous urge to know what the parcel contained.  So he opened his trunk, took it out and carried it to his living room.

After taking a cold shower, he opened the day’s newspaper and scanned the headlines for something interesting. Rain tomorrow in the north. Murder somewhere in the west. Scientific progress in the field of cloning. An accident down south. Haunted house.

Hey, she seemed familiar! It was the same boxy lady he’s seen at 2B/29! Her name was Winny Bose and she spoke of how she’d served the house for only a few days and how the owners seemed ‘really creepy’. She thought the place was haunted, and the owners, possessed, and was afraid to leave for fear of being cursed.

He gave the paper a quizzical look. What was in that parcel? Now he wasn’t so sure he wanted to open it, but his curiosity was killing him. What if the house maid was right? It did seem believable.

No, he’d just leave it at their doorstep the next day.

And so he did, right in the beginning of his shift. He left the parcel at the door and drove out of there and resolved never to return. This was too much drama for his daily routine.

***

 “Cherry? Cherry darling! Bring Ms. Kor here, right now! I have a gift for her.”

Cherry entered the room, doll in hand, house maid in tow, looking eagerly upon the gift that her nanna seemed so excited about.

“Those people there, Winny?”

“Yes ma’am? Which people?”, the house maid asked, stuttering curiously.

“Winny, I tell you, those people there in full town, think I mad. And they think little Cherry also mad. They think you marry your own bother means you have mad baby. So I marry cousin brother to keep them quiet. And give birth to lovely Eustus. But, my real brother get so angry, he kill cousin. Why pollute family blood, he say. And right too, you no think? So we have little Lara and she marry Eustus, like all good sisters in family. And then they both have accident and die!”

And this was where she broke down. First just a teardrop or two, then a whole string of tears, rushing down the wrinkled face.

“But they leave Cherry and Ms. Kor behind.  Doctors say Cherry too old for new brain. But Ms. Kor? Oh, not Ms. Kor!” As she spoke, teardrops made their way down her smile and into the tangled white beard on her chin.

She slowly unwrapped the box, “So I say, why poor Ms. Kor suffer same fate?  So much money in family, I say we buy Ms. Kor new brain!” She opened the box, and there it was. A mass of light-pink-brown, pulsating in rhythm with the small gadgets attached to it.

“And now my darling Ms. Kor be normal to full world!”

She took the artificial brain out of the box, removed the 5 plugs from each corner and put them in contact with Ms. Kor’s arms, legs, and head.  As though by some miracle, the doll’s eyes moved. There was a gulp down the throat.

“AH! And now I name you Mia!”

***

Ray opened the newspaper after his day’s shift. On the front page, stood the boxy lady, looking absolutely terrified, about 8 microphones strategically placed around her so as to not miss a word she uttered.

The headline read ‘WINNY, THE HOUSEMAID, TELLS SHOCKING TALE.’

He felt beady eyes on him as he read the rest of the article.

***

P.S. This story was written as a farewell gift to Bing.  Bing, this stays my story to you.

Things We Tell Ourselves

I balanced myself on the lean parapet outside the office. It was raining, and there was a meeting going on inside the office, and cutting his call was simply not an option. So I balanced myself as he spoke, catching bits of raindrops on my eyelashes.

“… and you won’t believe what she said!” He sounded appalled. More amused than disturbed by whatever news he was going to give me, but appalled nonetheless. “She texted back saying ‘Stay out of my life!’ ”

Ouch. That’s a bit harsh. The only time I ever said that to someone was when I was sixteen and I caught my boyfriend texting another girl calling her ‘babe’. Turns out I was right asking him to stay out of my life though, but that’s a story for another day.

“… and this is what I get?” he continues. “Who reacts like that when their ex sends them a nice picture of them? I just thought she’d like to have it.”

It DID seem a little ridiculous. In fact, it seemed downright preposterous that someone would talk to him like that. I didn’t need to be blinded by how much I adored him to say “Oh, chill out, she’s just being paranoid.” (Textbook. Never sound paranoid when talking to the guy you like. Ever.)

My day went on and it rained and poured and I stayed back late at work and took a lift home in a friend’s car. As I saw rain mist up my window, I did what anyone with a decent childhood does on a misty window. I wrote my name and made a smiley face. I think I was really happy. We may not have been in love, we definitely weren’t dating each other, but we were so … connected.

He’d call when he woke up to tell me what he’d dreamt of, I’d call when I’d get bored at work, we’d call each other at night to recount our day and I’d always ALWAYS send him songs I liked and he’d always ALWAYS listen to them. It was comfortable and easy and it made me smile without realizing. I liked being the one he complained to, I think. Or the one he spoke to about his dreams and ambitions.
“I want to be a one mark answer in a history paper,” he’d say, stuffing his face in my pillow because that’s how he slept, all wrapped up in my blanket like a human burrito.

And then it happened. What always happens. Life.
He helped me pack and move and dispose and sell things off and all the while, I felt it. I’d say it was chemistry but that’d be putting it in high school terms. So, for lack of a better word, I’ll say it was warmth. I felt it as he said goodbye and I moved to a new city and I felt it as he told me that just because he never said it doesn’t mean he didn’t show it or feel it and he was right. He did.

I didn’t shed a tear as I left, you know? I was so convinced things would work. We may not have been in love, we definitely weren’t dating each other, but we’d stay connected. Each other’s, at some plane.

Ah, Expectation, you filthy mistress!

I was in a new job. A new city. A new life, entirely. Of course I got busy.  I still called him. I think he got busy too. I think he may have gotten busier than he intended to. And somewhere between the unanswered calls and unread message, somewhere in the maze of new people and old family, somewhere in the spiral of Sylvia Plath quotations and different bed timings, I think I got used to not calling him.

I cut the line when he called today. It caught me by surprise and in all the excitement I cut the line. And I almost instantly called back when something in my head stopped me. I think I had nothing to say to him. I think I’d like to have asked him why he didn’t call or text anymore and heard him say he got busy, all the while knowing that’d be the answer. I know he got busy. I just thought I meant enough to him for that to not matter.

And I had nothing much to do so I opened a book and started reading it to distract myself. Calling him back was simply not an option. I guess that’s the only reason one could have asked him to stay out of their life. He was doing it anyway, might as well make it seem like your idea, right?
So I read my book and got involved in the story as the boy spoke about the girl he loved and I realized… in the end, in love, we all become stories.

And I hope he doesn’t end up just a one mark answer in a history paper.

Strangers With Memories

I watched half the semi-final. Half the opera. Maybe two thirds of the movie at the theatre yesterday. I didn’t quite taste the mint in my pepperoni. We ordered mint pepperoni? When did that get on the menu? I burned my little finger on the stove too. And every time, there was no reply.

What do you tell yourself the hundredth time you check your phone?

You’ve taken a step you can’t take back and Cupid’s demanding back his arrow. You’ve given someone things you weren’t even sure you had and now text message notifications are a game of Russian roulette, and his name is the bullet. Well, sometimes your tank is fueled up, but the track just ends.

He smirks when I talk like this. You’re young and foolish, he says. You’ll get older and realize love isn’t like this. It’s not just a bunch of moments that make you melt in between those of electricity and magic.

Well what is it then, I ask? Is it a convenient place you find once you’re done chasing your career and living it up with your friends?

I guess, yeah.

Well, if you keep letting go of the magic and electricity, that’s what it’s going to come to eventually, isn’t it?

He doesn’t reply. He’s probably on a work call. I wonder what he’ll do with his fame and millions some day. He’ll probably come home to someone who married him for them. Or not. They do say it all works out in the end.

We all do that. Spend our lives building ourselves for our idea of perfection, leaving love behind when it comes without knocking, thinking we’ll find ‘the one’ when the time is right, trying to convince ourselves that it does not matter how the edges of us fit into the edges of others as long as, once smashed together, something that resembles a picture emerges.

How do people start something without the idea of infinity? I don’t want forever. It’s impractical and unreasonable and we’re all adults and mature and know better than to set expectations. And yet, I think the idea is beautiful and I want it. Is it so bad if I want him to want it? Don’t we all deserve that? Some kind of blazing love that sets your soul on fire; that you wish could last but you know it won’t and somehow that’s okay, as long as you both wish it.

And when he says he won’t forget me, I can tell you that’s untrue. Because every day since we parted ways I thought less and less of him. I called him, sometimes; I tried to keep it alive. But you know what the problem with a stream of feelings that run one way is?

You know you don’t have to feel anything at all. But somewhere, deep inside, you want to.

And here comes the feeling you thought you’d forgotten. And you forget to check your phone and you accidentally leave behind the book he gave you; and one day you wake up and you realize the two are you are just strangers with memories.

And you had so much love to give once, and you were so good at it. But maybe that’s not enough. Maybe you need to love someone who wants to be loved. And maybe that’s more difficult than it sounds.

This is the song that I stumbled upon and got inspired by to write the article. The feelings are genuine and the people are real, though. Any writer who tells you otherwise is lying.
We all love like fools.
There really is no other way to love.

Love is such a big word; it really ought to have more letters.
They barely put any mint in that pepperoni anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

Who you are.

The man at the far end of the room sniffed the beer like a discerning wine lover and said knowingly “Made this morning, Zirakpur barley, plastic tap barrel, came by the Mohali flyover, AC failed on the way.”
Then he sipped into it, looked up at all of us with his white-froth moustache and exclaimed,“Aaaaaaaaaah!”

That was my first interaction with a senior at ISB Mohali, where I recently spent a weekend; where inspiration came at moments I was least expecting it, from sources I was least expecting it.

White Moustache set down his glass of beer and walked up to me. He was barely my height; I could see the top of his head all balding and shiny. He introduced himself. Told me his name, where he’d worked and for how long, and where he was originally from. I don’t remember the details, because I met too many people that weekend.  I just remember him telling me he was a violinist. Then he asked me a question.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Ayeesha. I just got here from…”

“No. I mean, who are you?”

I figured he was a little tipsy from the drinking. I gave him my name again.

“Alright, Ayeesha. What is it that you do?”

“I’m an aspiring writer.”

He let out a huge sigh and sat himself down on the arm of the sofa in front of me.

“Here are the two states in which you may exist,” he said, holding up two fingers, “person who writes, or person who does not. If you write: you are a writer. If you do not write: you are not. Aspiring Writer is a meaningless null state that romanticizes Not Writing. It’s as ridiculous as saying, “I aspire to pick up that piece of paper that fell on the floor.”

Then he picked up some paper from the floor and held it up to me.

“Let’s try again. Who are you, Ayeesha?”

“I’m a writer.”

 

 

Bikini Season

So it’s almost the end of bikini season. Apart from the fact that I’m now in Delhi and if I show any skin I get roasted and tanned and sun-burnt and lectured by my mom and dad and grand-mom and the neighbor’s aunt’s mom’s childhood friend who will judge my upbringing while her driver salivates, another reason that bikini season doesn’t matter to me is because I don’t wear bikinis.

It’s not got anything to do with the morality issue. I just like the extra cheese pepperoni pizza.
A LOT.

If it wasn’t for my will power, I’d be exercising right now. I even joined this up-market gym once and after 20 minutes on the treadmill I turned it on. A few minutes running on it, I began to huff and puff and curse my stamina and bite my lip while this crazy cute pair of abs stared at me in the mirror as if to say ‘That’s not very Versace of you’. Then he lifted his 100 kg dumbell and went back to staring at himself, like Morgan Freeman was narrating his workout by the second. Soon a bunch of girls entered in shorts I thought were belts and waistlines that are the main reason feminists hate Barbie, and took control of all the remaining machines and I’m just like What are you even doing here? You’re done.

So I went home.

I tried again next day. Cute Abs continued staring at me in the mirror. Our eyes met and I think I gave him a really clear sign. Leave me alone. I’m spooning my boyfriend in my head. Out of his container. Okay… He’s ice cream.

Eventually I gave up. I got complacent and busy with coloring and falling in love with boys who didn’t want to be fallen in love with. I felt like I had a hangover. Without all the happy memories and mystery bruises. I even tripped and fell into some feelings. I’m okay now, I brushed that shit off.
And got myself registered at that gym again.

Cinderella didn’t ask for a prince. She asked for a night off and a dress.