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Leaving the Lighthouse

“The dip of the light meant that the island itself was always left in darkness. A lighthouse is for others; powerless to illuminate the space closest to it.” ― M.L. Steadman

I was young and foolish. Agreed, young is an arguably relative term, but then so is foolish. And yet, it’s all I’ve got to work with. I was young and foolish and in love. I wanted to be in love and he wanted to be happy; so that’s really where the trouble began.

Such a small word, and it means so many drastically different things to different people. To some it means stability. To some it means loyalty. Love to me then meant magic. It meant unpredictability and thrill and just a little bit of danger; enough to seek a lighthouse but not quite enough to seek harbour yet.

I think love for him meant peace. I think he was young and foolish too.

Do you know what lighthouses do? I don’t. But from all the stories, movies and legends, they seem to be both guiding lights and warnings signals for each and every ship at sea. Am I the only one who senses the irony in that? It must take everything in a lighthouse to look at a pretty little ship and say “You’re beautiful, but if you come any closer, you’ll get hurt. So go there.”

Some people are like that too. Selfless, you’d think. Strong and selfless and guiding lights to those who need them and those who don’t. But while we’re all applauding these lighthouse people for their maturity, we forget that it must take everything in an unbalanced ship to hear “You’re beautiful, but if you come any closer, you’ll get hurt. So go there.” The unhinged love stronger, you know. They run towards the light and seek warmth and love louder.

You were my lighthouse. I guess it was hard to see my hinges off from way up there. My ship wasn’t even in the midst of a storm, the sea and sky were clear and calm and I think that’s really what led me to you; the insufferable quiet of it all. I thought I’d dance in your light for a while and leave at day break, and so I did.

Once.

Felt like enough, until it didn’t.

It took me months to pass by you again. I even took a detour, for the heck of it. What harm is a lighthouse, I must have thought. What harm is another dance in the light, the light that’s shining for everyone to dance in anyway. And so I came, and danced a while in your warmth, and just as it was time to leave I noticed that the closer I got, the darker it became. You weren’t meant for me to embrace, you were meant for me to love from afar, for everyone to love from afar – little did I know then, it’s darkest where the light is being cast from.

The trouble with our tryst was that you never offered me safe harbour, you just told me the rocky island was secure. I nestled my head on your shoulders and asked if you were comfortable. “More than I should be,” you’d say, because you knew you had no room for my anchor. I was a universe too late and the spoils of the ship at the bottom of your island weren’t mine to keep.

How much we fools in love bite our wretched tongues until they begin to bleed. I loved you till I realised you were a warning sign for a menacing coastline. I loved you till I realised your light was meant to usher me, not warm me. I loved you till I realised you weren’t mine to love, till I realised that who I was wasn’t for you. A cage made of hopes is but still a cage.

“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” ―John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

The Goodbye That’ll Do

I was supposed to eat healthy this year. I think I wasn’t supposed to fall in love with anyone new. I had to write a book and complete blog posts and talk to publishers. I had to work on my art and fill all the empty canvases lying around my house, yearning for attention and colour as they gathered the year’s passive grey dust. I was definitely supposed to travel and subconsciously that’s the only promise I kept. And thank god for that.

I travelled to Mumbai and saw the filthy drugged and the stinking rich live side by side in perfect ignorance of each other’s worlds – not hating, not loving – just existing for purposes they found sufficient. I travelled to Pondicherry and saw three Italians pulling vegetables out of their kitchen gardens to make a meal for me in their wood oven. I travelled to Bangalore and saw some old friends. Some grown up more than they’d have liked. Some grown up less than I’d have liked. I travelled to Los Angeles and saw women with botoxed foreheads holding Prada handbags, their worry lines now buried deep inside their skulls, invisible to everything but their own soul, because that’s how they like their foreheads. I travelled to San Francisco and saw a homeless woman reject the pancakes I gave her. I danced to bluegrass banjo music with people whose names I couldn’t pronounce or hear. I saw seventeen miles of a sky in colours I can’t name.

I also loved. Deliberately, consciously, carelessly and then carefully. I loved like I had never been broken. I loved a person across cities, states, countries and continents because it’s 2015, and distance is nothing but a minor inconvenience. I got over emotional unavailability, only to realize that it’s the most selfish reason not to let someone love you.

I read books I couldn’t relate to that taught me so much about the people I’m not. The people I want to be. The people I must allow in others.

I lived with my family long enough to fall back in love with them and then remember why I can’t live with them anymore. I heard my father talk to me like I was seventeen, and didn’t get irritated for once because the last time he spoke to me over breakfast on a Tuesday morning in pajamas was when I was seventeen and we both forgot that we both grew up in the years between that Tuesday and this one.

I think I learned how to breathe slower this year. I learned my feet freeze the fastest when I’m out in the cold, my stomach last. I learned that money is important to live a happy non-materialistic life as well. Because it’s 2015, and money is nothing but a major convenience.

And with 2016 three days away, I’ve decided I’ll eat healthy this year. I’ve sipped fine sake and guzzled shitty absinthe and my body deserves some peace. I won’t fall in love with anyone new. Because my heart’s only this big and it’s full. I will write a book and complete blog posts and talk to publishers. Because I started seven books this year and they’re all now just unfinished parts of me. I’ll work on my art and fill up those canvases with colour. For no reason in particular.

And when 2017 is three days away, I’ll tell you what I did instead.

Featured Image – Picture clicked in the Standford Museum of a notebook with doodles and scribbles. This particular page ends with the lines
“Made it from there to here and now
Here’s there again”
Anonymous, like all good feelings

 

How Love And Lust Came To Be

They didn’t plan it.
I guess the stars above did. Somehow, the stars let everyone know about their plans.
Everyone, but the two of them.
There were four stars at work. They’d work hard night after night, trying to get their formations right so the two would notice each other.
Every design, every arrangement, every little deviation of angle was tested. Ah! The permutations were endless.
But nothing seemed to work.
The leading star, called Star, looked up to the heavens and sighed in disbelief. How could two people, so beautiful, inside and outside, so enchanting, so charming, so made for each other, not notice one another? He asked God to check his records.
God looked down at Star and smiled, “Sorry Star, I’ve checked and double checked and triple checked. I made her for him. And that’s just how it’s gotta be. I made her mother tell her bedtime stories about him. You can’t disappoint her now.”
Star knew he had to fix this.
He looked at his three followers. Place. Time. And Shiz. Poor Place and Time would work round the clock, trying to get the two of them to the same place at the same time. But Shiz was lazy. Every time that Place and Time finally managed to work something out, Shiz would mess things up.
So Star went and spoke to Shiz.
“Listen, dear,” Star said, “I see you’ve been trying, but you don’t realize how important your task is. The two people in question really need each other, whether they know it or not. And if you want something truly, with all your heart and soul, the entire universe conspires to bring it to you. If the two don’t end up with each other, the universe will collapse. And every time you work your magic too late, they end up with the wrong suitor. We need to fix this.”
And saying this, Star asked Shiz to leave the constellation working on their Love and appointed Perfect instead.
Now Perfect, as his name suggests, was perfect. The moment Time and Place managed to create and opportunity again, Perfect did a perfect job, and hence the Love was created. Star was pleased, and so was God. Now the universe shall live on.
But Shiz was still there, in the sidelines somewhere, his ego hurt. He wanted revenge. He didn’t want the two to part, for then, as Star had warned, the universe would collapse, so instead, he decided to mess around a little. Now he knew the constellation he’d just left had been working on Love, working so hard only because it was the most beautiful Love ever to be created. Shiz didn’t have the power to destroy that. So he did something naughty.
The next time that Time and Place unknowingly worked their magic together, Shiz worked his own magic and created Lust. He watched it blossom between the two in Love, and thought to himself, “Hah, Star should’ve known better than to throw me out.”
Now Star, being the leader, knew everything each star was up to. When he saw what Shiz had done, he went to have a word with him.
But then, he saw, the most beautiful thing ever.
He saw the two lovers, as they took every drop of Lust and poured it in the Love, and created the most wonderful fusion of the two. God had been right, of course. The two were meant to be.
At a distance, he saw Shiz, looking at him watching the lovers proudly, and he said, “Thank you, Shiz, for being part of the team. We couldn’t have created this magic without you.”
Hearing these words, Shiz’s naughty smile faded and his eyes went moist. Yes, he was part of the team that created this fairytale romance. And to this day, every time you see Shiz, you see his colour changing because of his light shining through his moist eyes.
Disco star, as the two silly lovers call him, twinkled away a little more brightly than the rest of them.
But he’ll take that name.
After all… he was part of the team.

Pills We Don’t Take

It’s hot and my toes are sweating. It takes a special kind of heat, you know, to even realize that your toes are sweaty. I push my way through the crowd and head towards the balcony. Some ventilation would do me good, do my toes good.

As I reach the balcony, I notice a boy sitting in the corner. I haven’t seen him before. To be fair, I haven’t seen most of the people at this party before; but this boy, this boy looks especially out of place. Like I wasn’t supposed to have seen him before. I wonder if I should step into his line of sight. He seems like he wants to be left alone, at first. But as I linger at the entrance, he looks up at me and smiles.

It’s not so much a smile, actually. It’s a half smile. And a half smile is a dangerous thing. Half smiles hide more than sullen faces ever will. Half smiles come with a sense of resignation, the wrong kind of peace.
He smiles at me, half smiles at me, then looks away, into space, at nothing really – maybe a star, I can’t be too certain. I walk across with my drink and stand at the edge, looking down into the beautiful city, lights dotting the landscape till as far as I can see.

“How does one bring themselves to forget someone who loves them?” says a voice from behind me.

“Nonchalance and distractions, mostly,” I say, still look at the moving specks of light in the distance.

I can feel his eyes on me as I say this. He’s probably hurt. He’s probably aching in love, furiously looking for a profound explanation to justify his pain.
I turn now, to look at him. There’s an interesting expression people have when they don’t get answers they want to hear. A look of confusion mixed with incredulity, a feeling of “How could you!” with a side of “Oh”. His moustache is barely sprouting and his eyes are red with memories of someone who held his hand one moment too long.

“You’re young,” I say, as I turn back to face the city and its specks of light, their anonymity comforting me.

“Until I’m not”

I don’t know how to respond to that. That blatant crisp truth. I’ve been young, I’ve been in love and I’ve been in pain and I’ve been in thought. I’ve wanted to sit in someone’s lap and not be touched at the same time, I’ve wanted to play with someone’s hair and not call back and I’ve been young and I’ve been old and it never really goes away. I don’t remember much but I remember feelings.
And the trouble lies in the expectation. The expectation that someday true love or maturity or destiny will work its magic and you’ll fall into a love that won’t make you claw your insides out. The expectation that things will turn out the way everyone who ever comforted you said they would, the way everyone who ever comforted you wished they would.

So I turn back to face him, determined not to fill his head with false promises of a world that’s fair and a heart that beats one beat at a time. But as soon as my eyes meet his, I know he knows. He knows what I want to tell him, and he knows I won’t.

“I know,” he says. “I know”

A few days later he jumps off the same balcony. I don’t feel anything.

He’s left a note for me, they say. I still don’t feel anything. I open the note that looks like it has been scribbled hurriedly in pencil, rewrites on top of rewrites, and remnants of a chewed up eraser the only saving grace of the words meant to be hidden.

“How could you forget? What kind of sickness of the brain eats up your ability to love someone back?”

Nonchalance and distractions, mostly, I think to myself, as I forget what I’m reading.

In Staccato Rhythm

It’s a rainy day in a college by the road, and my two corridor mates are introducing me to a blend of guitars and endlessness they call classic rock. I’ve heard its kind before, but never when steeped in someone else’s enthusiasm.

It’s yet another rainy day, in an apartment by a different road. Four years of my steadfast indifference has done nothing to dampen their enthusiasm. There’s new songs blended in now. One of them now hunts and gathers new music from the scuzzy underbelly of the city. The other has rekindled loves from his past. I still don’t understand it. I’m beginning to suspect I don’t understand music at all.

It’s the wee hours of the morning, and I’m sitting in a shared cab back from work, listening to my borrowed tastes. It fills the silence better than inflicting conversation on my fellow corporate drone. His stop is before mine. I come home to a girl who is no longer here.

It’s been ages since college when we set out to ride back to it. The road is the same, it’s sweltering hot, though. We’ve forgotten most of our CDs. This was before we, as a country, could afford streaming. There’s no classic rock. There’s the corridormate-turned-flatmate’s newest find. He goes on about how we should support the local music scene. For the first three hours of the drive, he insists it’s all alright that we can now recite the lyrics in our sleep.

I’m at the beach by the college by the road. The breeze brings back memories. They say music brings back memories. Places do, too. Smells, sounds, the feel of a place is stronger in my mind than notes in the ether. I’m convinced. It’s not music that I’ll miss.

It’s Sunday and we’re all staring at each other across a wooden table. This used to be a bar for Sunday afternoons, it’s now one for Friday nights. It plays every song you know, smeared into one explosion of sound. It reminds me of clubs, not in a bad way. New people are at the table. They remind me of clubs, not in a bad way. New people bring new music.

It’s a lazy Sunday in a new house, and the rain has obliged. I’m sipping tea with a girl I’ll hurt. She’s talking to me about electronic music. That can’t be good, I tell myself. I profess my borrowed inclinations, scoffing at the idea of anything new being good. Funny that the corridormate-turned-flatmate, in his final months in the city, would wax endlessly about how the goodness of anything new.

It’s the same early morning on another day. There’s no one in the cab today, no one waiting at home. I stumble in sleepily to soundtracks seeping through my flatmate’s locked door. Soundtracks, I understand. I begin to wonder if I’m overthinking this. One of the classic rockers left long ago, the other left less long ago. The guitars are no longer endless where I live.

It’s raining as I bid them farewell, the first time. My flatmates, neighbors, collegemates and the girl. Raining. Rain is a place by itself. I wait for my flight at the airport, watching the drops race down the glass. Drinking seems inappropriate, like I’m tarnishing the memory of the past years with more of the same. I plug in, and listen to more of the same, taking my mind off the last things I’d seen.

It’s a different early morning. I’m in a different cab. It’s driven back from the airport by two grim chauffeurs. I reach home to utter silence. The entire flight here, I’ve drowned anxiety in simple mash seasoned with the occasional weird taste. There’s no filling a silence. That phrase shouldn’t exist. Silence breaks. You can only break a silence.

My second farewell is less charged, if more permanent. I’m back across the oceans. I move from the job with the late night cab and find another one. I move from the city with the job with the late night cab and find a new one. With new people. There is a bookshop under my house. I almost never go. My little portable speaker is still in my boxes. I’ve forgotten the playlist on my phone.

It’s a cold winter’s day as I trot from the bus into work. I rummage about in my backpack, looking for a mouse. I find earphones instead. I plug in. It’s the playlist I’ve built over these years of growing up. It’s every rainy day, on every road, in every house, in every cab, for every farewell. It’s everything silence isn’t. I’m still unconvinced I understand it, but it’s getting harder to believe that.

It’s the same day’s evening. I call the corridor mate. He’s crossed the same oceans as well. We talk like it’s all one day, seven years wide. He has new songs, of course. So do I, now. I hear the new ones, while I finally listen to the old.


This post was originally written by Abhijeet Sathe.
All rights remain with the author.

The Loneliest Day

On a lonely day,
through the grim glass of my bathroom window,
I see the faint outline of a pigeon every day.
It slowly blends in with the dusk.

Every night when I am alone,
I can hear her grunt as I settle in.
There’s something comforting about recurrences.

She must be asleep when I go to the balcony
to watch the haze of lights
racing along the road in the dead of night.
I like these ripples through silence.

It gets a bit cold and there’s a slow drizzle,
the clouds drowning the waning moon.
There aren’t any stars to fade away tonight,
I find solace in their irrelevance.

I shun the cold breeze and go inside,
Turn on the TV for some more noise.
Flip through books, look for a cigarette,
And finally decide to dim the light.

When my eyes close and the conscious fades,
I recall the pigeon wasn’t alone tonight.
Suddenly I realize with a little dismay,
She brought a mate on my loneliest day.


This poem was anonymously submitted for a guest post. 
All rights remain with the poet.

QUESTIONS THAT MATTER

They asked me where I came from
I said I wasn’t sure
they asked again, it mattered I think
Where I was bred and born

They asked me whom I pray to
I said I didn’t pray;
They persisted for it worried them
whom I believe turns night to day

They enquired about my schooling
and the wages I collect
I said I studied experiences
and wrote of love and regret

I know where I belong, I think
My faith lies in good vibes
I know the thoughts I pen down
touch people till they smile

And you could have a God
and be surrounded with riches too;
but if you were truly happy
mine wouldn’t matter to you