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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.


When Life Gives You Lemons

Nobody tells you that when you wish upon a star, you’re actually a few million years late. That star is already dead. Bummer, eh?

I turn twenty three in two days. I’m kind of in between moods right now. You know how it feels to be pissed off and ladylike? Utterly confusing. I suck at it. Of course I don’t know how to act my age. I’ve never been this age before. I’m usually a calm person but some situations really test my giveashitometer. Like when I see fresh bird droppings on my car and I go out  and eat devilled eggs by the window just so they know who they’re messing with.

I wish men could be dealt with the same way. You get over the bunch of them and you meet someone tall with a crooked smile and there comes that feeling you thought you’d forgotten. But sooner or later you find out that he’s the same old dal-chawal sold to you on the menu as well steamed long grain fine white rice from the brilliant yellow fields of Punjab, a golden lentil broth on the side, garnished with pixie dust.

And then the inevitable happens. Khichdi.

I’m feeling a little over-worked and under-intoxicated. Break ups usually leave me feeling a tad bit wild, I think. I start booking tickets to all corners of the world and getting new piercings and not waxing because lulz, lemons.
Nowadays I just get home and get the cheese and crackers out and think Screw you, recommended serving size. You don’t know my story.

I don’t know what happened. It’s sad and hilarious at the same time. But I think I learned things from my time with him that one should eventually learn. People love differently. Silence, I discovered, is something you can actually hear. And you can tell so much about a person by how they leave you. It’s sad how Wile E. Coyote is remembered for his barbarity, and not for his insanely realistic paintings of tunnels. People never forget how you make them feel. And be careful, sometimes what’s left unsaid says it all.

Then, of course, there’s the mommy angle. From what I’ve heard, parenting is mostly about telling your kid how many minutes of something they have left. Moms, spurring their offsprings to go forth and conquer the world and also get a mani pedi and find a suitable boy and HAIYO RABBA IS THAT A TATTOO AB SHAADI KAUN KAREGA.

So when life gives you lemons, contrary to popular belief and one too many T-shirt quotes, there’s not much you can do. You don’t even get to ask why. And some part of you doesn’t even want to know. Sure explanations can be helpful, but so can ignorance, paychecks and new senior recruits at the office.
So helpful.

And as I move a day closer to the first time in life I’m not excited about my birthday, I ponder over the idea of possibly not letting life happen to me again. It’s time I owned this shit. With abs and stilettos and calculated risk and my own little business because heaven knows I make one hell of a difficult employee.
Those shooting stars are long dead, and I’m feeling more alive than ever.

I’m in a really good place spiritually.

Please fuck off, lemons.


The Hedgehog’s Dilemma

A number of hedgehogs huddled together for warmth on a cold day in winter; but, as they began to prick one another with their quills, they were obliged to disperse. However the cold drove them together again, when just the same thing happened. At last, after many turns of huddling and dispersing, they discovered that they would be best off by remaining at a little distance from one another.

It’s a theory called the Hedgehog’s Dilemma. Freud used this as an analogy for human intimacy. Apparently you can only get so close to someone without unintentionally hurting them as well as yourself.

Ah well.

What do we, as humans, run away from? Intimacy is a relative term. For you, intimacy maybe the laughter during sex. For me, intimacy maybe the comfortable quiet during a stroll in the park.
I’ll tell you what intimacy isn’t, though.
Intimacy isn’t ordinary.

Why, you might ask, would someone write a poem that doesn’t rhyme? Maybe it’s because putting too much thought into something kills the essence. If we’re too careful, we’ll turn out ordinary.
I can turn you into poetry, dear, but I can’t make you stay. There’s a difference between somebody who loves you and somebody who would do anything to keep you. It’s the difference between want and need, I think.

I’m looking at the November sunset and thinking, if day must turn to night, this is a beautiful way. Nothing ever goes away until it teaches us what it needs to. And we could think of all the ways things fall out but so little of what could happen does indeed happen. There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly. I’m no expert on relationships, but I know that if I’ve loved you, I’ll paint our sunset your color.

If people just lived off promises and guarantees, this world would be a broken place. People live off hope, that’s why it’s still warm, you know? Because people live off hope and try in the best way they know how. And they make their quills blunt together, so they can stay warm longer.

I can be mature and I can be poised and I can be an elegant dream, if you’d like that.
I like it some days too.

But don’t love me for that.

Most days, I’m lost. I write to find myself and I paint to get lost again. Science can’t excite me like a paradox can. I’ll forget things you say and do, but I’ll never forget the way you make me feel. I’ll forget your birthday but I won’t forget the way you smelled on our first date. I’ll stay close to anything that makes me glad I’m alive. Make me glad I’m alive.
Most days, I’m chaos.

And this chaos could be the quills that push you away or the warmth that pulls you close.
That’s for you to decide.

Who’s to say your quills won’t be sharper than mine?

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.
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.

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.
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.