Tag Archives: happy

The Nest

There’s a pigeon in my kitchen. She’s a lovely grey, if there’s even such a thing as lovely grey. It’s not silver, it’s just a clean warm earthy grey, accented by highlights and shadows from the sun catching her feathers. She frequents my kitchen window, and there’s a twelve-twigged hint of an upcoming nest on the parapet outside. I presume they have something to do with each other.

But today, for the first time, I find her inside my kitchen. She’s crossed the windowpane, a feat no other bird of this bashful species (or any species for that matter) has dared to attempt before. Somehow the birds always know to stay out of houses, even when windows and doors are left ajar. I imagine the thought of the imminent confinement scares them away.

And yet, and yet, Pidge the pigeon (I have decided to name her) is in my kitchen, stomping on the cold black granite with her orange claws, pacing up and down the kitchen counter in a hurry, like she has important business to attend to on the top of the fridge, but this can hardly wait for the important business that needs attention on the opposite end by the sink.

She stops for a breath every now and then, her neck’s purple green plumage vibrant in the sunlight, and cocks her head up to look at me. I must seem quite unthreatening to her, for she gets back to her many businesses immediately, marching across my kitchen counter, no time to waste.

***

I’m back in the kitchen. There’s the human standing at the doorway and looking at me. She lets out a low gasp at first, but I look at her and calm her down. She switches on the fan, and continues standing at the doorway and staring at me. I can tell she’s scared, but also curious. We’ve seen each other before, but always across the windowpane. This is the first time we are on the same side.

She smiles at me, and I can’t bear it. I think she’s named me in her head. The other birds warned me this often happens when a bird crosses the windowpane in the presence of a human. This, or death. I’m glad it’s the former.

My heart beats faster in my chest, and I don’t know what to do. I’m walking from one end to another frantically, trying to get my thoughts in order. I look at her, time and again. She seems calm now, her beautiful brown skin smooth as the insides of a worm on a warm summer afternoon, her black eyes darting across the room at things she’s worried I will kick over as I scurry around, trying my best to buy time.

She leaves momentarily, and I make the most of it. I rush to the clothes stand, and peck the fragrant pink towel as it dries, picking up each strand of her delicious black hair from it. There’s thirty six in all, and I carry them lovingly back to my developing nest, ready to spend the day weaving them in. They are weaker and finer than twigs, but smell like mogra some days and rose on others.

One day, when it’s done, I’ll invite her in.

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The minutes you spend.
Looking at her clothes. How the neckline of her blouse is just shallow enough to give away her delicate collar bones. You spend a minute too long on this, in fact. And sigh.
Onto the next. Your fourth grade crush has bought his own BMW. Ah but, you think to yourself, it’s commonplace in the states.
Onto the next. Your ex boyfriend’s ex girlfriend. You make a mental note to unfollow her. Another time. Right now she’s got a cute puppy and you’ve forgotten you hated her.
You scroll down. It’s your mum’s cool friend, showing way too much cleavage.
Further down, your own ex. A post about his football non profit. Unfollow.
Next, your other ex. Married now, posting a picture of his brand new six pack abs. You smirk and don’t unfollow him, because it mildly amuses you to see his scantily clad calls for attention, the same reason you’re still following the girl from high school you never spoke to, who makes an appearance in the next picture.
You continue scrolling, fast now because the promise of entertainment from this app is slowly waning and making you restless.
And then you stop.
Scroll up just a bit.
There.
Right in front of you.
The tiny thumbnail picture of the man you have a crush on.
It’s funny, you never thought you’d say man and crush in the same sentence. He’s posted something after two months. Not his face, not the weather, not some wannabe poignant picture of a derelict alleyway with a cheap filter and a borrowed caption. It’s a post of his latest animation, that he probably coded lying down casually in bed on a Sunday between his morning dose of Economic Times and his afternoon reading sesh (you think he likes reading Manto but you’re not sure it’s his Sunday vibe, so you don’t feature that into your imagination).
And then you scroll further. Slow now. Not really taking in anything. Memes. Selfies.
Comic strips come and go. By the time you’re back to the present, you’re already looking at pictures posted last night. With a pang of guilt you continue.
A quote with a bright background. A close friend’s terrible attempt at sketching. A stranger you follow in her latest gym attire (holy shit she got so fit so fast!). Because you like to know what exactly is up in their lives, three celebrities one after the other.
Your ex best friend with her new best friend. Your token cool colleague. And (just before it’s time to get off the cab) the guy who took his life last night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outlines

It was mostly a blank white canvas, but it took up most of the wall. Once you walked closer to it, you would notice the delicate ink on it seemed to symbolise the small of a woman’s back, with a thick lock of curls falling casually to one side. There was a hint of her feet somewhere to the bottom right, just above the artist’s signature.
The minimalism was almost poetic.

The signature itself was small and elegant, but it had a personality of it’s own. It had sophisticated straight lines intermingling with a beautiful cursive, and my eyes lingered on it a second longer than they did on the rest of the canvas. I’d never heard of the artist before, but an acquaintance, whose creative sense I admired, had been devastated all week with the news of the artist’s demise and I just had to come down and see what all the fuss was about.

The gallery (a short walk away from my house) was holding an exhibition to commemorate the late artists’s wonderful work over the years and despite being only a couple of small rooms large, it was quite empty. By empty I mean the attendance was quite poor. However, now that I think of it, the walls looked quite empty too. There must have been twelve canvases in all (prints of course, they never displayed originals) and the canvases themselves were voids in terms of colour and story.
Looking at them felt meditative.

He’d died in his sleep, the papers said. He was eighty six years old, had been married once, had one daughter, painted twelve furiously popular works of art, and one night, after a hearty meal and three cocktails, he went to bed and never woke up.

He’d also done one interview for a magazine a decade ago. At the end of the gallery, they had framed the published pages (possibly for lack of enough artwork). The artist had talked about his mute style in great detail.

Why didn’t he use more colour?
He’d started off not being able to afford it. When he was discovered, he had been publicised by his discoverer as the painter of ‘Monotony in Monotone’, and thereafter, that had become his brand.
(Monotony in Monotone was an outline sketch of a woman sitting on a chair and looking directly at the viewer of the painting. Of course, just black ink on a white canvas)

Why did he not draw the surroundings of his subjects?
He said he was poor at it. So he’d decided not to.

Why were there only twelve artworks in his forty seven years of work? Was it to create artificial scarcity to increase the value of his paintings?
No. He just hadn’t felt like drawing all the time. He would just create one every time he felt like people were forgetting who he was.

and lastly…

What was his inspiration?
The noise, he had said.

The noise of everyday, collected over years. All the baggage, the stories and drama. The noise of things, of excess. The constant need for good food and fine company. For entertainment and material. The constant need for attention.

“But wasn’t that what got you going in the first place, the constant need for attention? You just mentioned you’d create every time you felt like people were forgetting who you were.”

“Yes. I’d create to remind myself that it didn’t matter. And I’d just draw what mattered.”

As I walked back to the entrance, I noticed each canvas was the sketch of a woman. Just a part of her. Not sensual, not detailed. Just a simple man’s drawing of the soft curve of the elbows of the woman who was enough for him.

Your Sunday Morning Trip with Uber Pool

She bit her lip and fiddled with the ring on her finger, looking out the window at nothing in particular. It would have been wonderful if the city had given her an abyss to stare into, but it gave her concrete and windows and the occasional street vendor; really stealing the poetry from the moment.

She turned to me and mouthed something, so I unplugged my earphones and said “Yes?”

“Windows. Can we put the windows down?”

I gave her a nod and rolled down my window, as did she. The driver did too, almost too keenly, as the freshly generated fragrances of the suburbs started to pour into our cab. I could mostly just smell the rain, or whatever it smells like when it rains. I read somewhere that it’s the smell of some metabolic by-product of a kind of bacteria, emitted by wet soil. It’s the sort of trivia that hits you on an idle Wednesday afternoon when you’ve been scrolling down your phone for too long, your thumbs have gone to sleep, and then you realize you probably should get back to work.

Her phone suddenly began buzzing. She looked at it, sighed long and hard and then answered. The voice at the other end was shrill and loud, and started speaking almost immediately.

“Cut the gobi, clean the paalak and boil three eggs,” she responded dispassionately, once again fiddling with her ring. “I’ll be back in ten minutes.”

She had a melancholy look about her face when she caught my eye, and I couldn’t help but offer an understanding smile. Sometimes you just know when someone needs a smile. She sighed out a smile in return and said, “It’s just been a long day”

It was 8.37am, to be exact.

I looked out of the window on my side to see a vegetable vendor wrapping up his cart for the day. Behind him was his wife, who’d completed her cooking for the day in the three houses she worked in. His son would return from his night shift as an auto rickshaw driver soon, and they’d have their one meal of the day together. 8.37am could be a tiring time of day.

The cab took a swift turn off the main road and she reached inside her handbag and put on several red plastic bangles on both her hands. As she did, a piece of paper flew out of her bag and onto the seat. She looked at it, pursed her lips and crushed it and threw it out onto the road. Then she directed the cab to her destination, and almost braced herself a little before she stepped out of the cab.

Another pickup was scheduled just down the road, and a pleasant young boy in very crumpled clothing and worn out chappals got into the front seat of the cab. He leaned out the window to wave excitedly to someone on a higher floor of the building we were outside, then buckled up his seatbelt, turned around to look at me and wished me good morning. I nodded back with a half smile, the way one does to strangers. He whipped out his phone from the back pocket of his jeans and settled into the seat, visibly grinning as he read through an old conversation with the concentration millennials seem to reserve only for social media.

After a couple of minutes, he made a call. As he reclined his seat a little too far back, he said, “Yeah, no gym for me today. I’m exhausted.” He then plugged the hanging aux wire into his phone, put on a song I couldn’t recognize and settled back into the overly reclined seat with a smile on his face and a sigh of contentment.

And soon, I left the cab and walked back home, feeling not so alone in this new city, as half of Mumbai embarked upon their Sunday morning in yesterday’s clothes, without yesterday’s company.

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

COME AS YOU ARE

Picture Credits: Hardik Batra

Welcome to my standard night at ISB. It’s 4am and it’s both late night and early morning. I can hear the Gurbani playing in the east as Calvin Harris slowly morphs into Nucleya to the west of my room. Outside in the living room, people are discussing public policy in rural India over a game of Monopoly, and as I look out of my window I see a rabbit hop towards the wood heated from last night’s bonfire. It gets too close and immediately backs away, hopping once again into the darkness. None of us gets a how-to guide, you see? Everybody’s just somewhat winging it.

The wine is over and the temperature is at it’s lowest for the day, so we bring out the rum. The Monopoly has begun to disturb friendships, so we bring out the rum. We’re out of ideas and the paper is due in two hours, so we bring out the rum. A little liquid courage never hurt anyone, so we bring out the rum. Only to wake up the next morning, thirsty, exhausted, drowsy – yet somehow more accomplished, dearer, warmer.

I won’t lie, it’s been an especially gruelling year – but that’s what we came here for in the first place, isn’t it? A year that would ideally have taken two. Not just in what we learn and experience but also physically, mentally, emotionally. Some days we surprise ourselves and own it – the classes, the assignments, the study groups and the networking, still somehow managing to spend quality time with the ones who matter. And yet, some days, we leave our spectacles in the refrigerator.

That’s the beauty of life at this pace. Ever so often it reminds you that you’re still human. Allow yourself a breath – a wasted day, a missed deadline, a failed interview. And then get back up, immediately. That’s what we came here for in the first place, isn’t it?
A year that would ideally have taken more time.

And now with graduation day almost in sight, I try to think of all the ways to tell people all the things I wish I’d known when I began my year here, most of which have to do with emotional stability. That even as you start out, you will meet people who see the same stars as you do. They will inspire you, overwhelm you, bring out the best and worst in you and slowly become a part of you.

But people, as people do, change. Sometimes you just outgrow the ones you started out with, for you mature with experiences, not with years. All of a sudden you’ll be looking at the same stars, seeing different constellations. And nobody is better or worse for it, we just make our own momentum as we go from bone crushing hugs to firm handshakes.

And then there’s the ones you find and keep – different momentums, different starting points and all that jazz. But the same escape velocity. They come out of nowhere and as they do, you realise that for this one year, you’re always one decision away from a parallel universe. And for that one reason, this year is the beginning of anything you want.

I wish we could have bottled this year, like a perfume. Breathed in a little every time life got dreary or uninspiring.

But we can’t, so we bring out the rum.

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.

The eye of my storm

What is this need to be in a constant unrest that engulfs you? Just when the air around you has settled and the sun is finally shining its brightest; this need for a hailstorm, for rain and thunder. As if the calm doesn’t make you feel alive enough. As if the fragrant wind doesn’t please you unless it ruffles some feathers if shouldn’t ruffle, unless it breaks some branches it shouldn’t touch.

What is this unsolicited aversion to tranquility? Has your life been so tumultuous that when peace finally arrives it must be nothing but the eye of the storm? And even so, who can explain this itch to take a step out into the whirlwind? Is the silence beginning to bore your demons?

It’s late in the afternoon as these questions cloud my mind. I sit on the balcony and enjoy the rain, watching it turn the blue sky grey, and the yellow soul blue. Lightning breaks the horizon in the distance and I feed off it like a parasite of havoc. Drenched to the bone, the cold takes my head and makes its way down my spine and I smile as I feel it warm something inside of me.

There you are, somewhere, happy and whole, loving me with a love I can feel to my toes, a love I’ll never have to recover from. It’s so serene it’s killing me. This recklessness will be the death of me and yet it’s what’s kept me alive for so many years that it’s the only way I know how. And even as I feel my dreams take shape in the distance as you talk about us ten years from now, twenty, even forty… I can’t help but wonder what happened in all those dreams I don’t remember. What did I create some nights with my own imagination that was so confounding, my mind decided to leave it behind in my pillow instead of carrying it along? Was it something different from these pictures you paint, was it what enters me every now and then, this sudden urge for chaos, for godless limitless fearless love that takes fate by the throat and says I know you have plans, but bugger, so do I.

I feel myself settling into the cloud of plans and as wonderful as they seem they’ll amount to when they do condense, there are moments when I feel I need the rain tomorrow, or I need to fly. This silence of the clouds is making my demons restless.

I may be wrong, I may be so wrong, I may be wishing upon stars and planets as they twinkle in the sky for something completely and ridiculously unholy. And you may be right, you may be so right, when you tell me stars are just distant suns and tomorrow, maybe day after, I’ll be doing and not wishing, but not today.
But I wasn’t made to stand on the sidelines. I wasn’t made for rationed rational love and I wasn’t made to wait and wish.

I find it staggering that my soul knew a time before you. Who was I? What did I do in all the time I now spend talking to you? In whose heart did I live, how was it warm? I can’t remember a time I wasn’t incessantly wishing, waiting, hoping for the future, the next five years, and the next plane ticket that’ll bring me to your side. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t dreaming about your beard scratching my cheek, your elbows cupping mine; I can’t remember what I was waiting for before I waiting for this.

You feel like home.
And there’s something amiss when home feels way too far away in space and time, don’t you think?

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.

We All Start As Strangers

You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew you never knew – Pocahontas


At what point does a stranger stop being a stranger?

Is it when the stare lingers on one moment too long? Or when your hands brush and then don’t pull away? Is it when they voice out your thoughts for the first time?

We all have two kinds of songs we love. The first kind, you want to share with the world and sing out loud from rooftops. But there’s always the other kind, the kind you want to keep to yourself, with tender greed, extracting all the joy from it as if to feed your soul and your soul alone; as if any other soul extracting joy from it would mean less for you. With the right music, you either forget or remember everything. People can be like that too.

And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter – they are so rusty, so feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. And the silence is warm and the conversation is intoxicating and there’s one part of you that’s holding you back because you know the sparks never last but there’s the other part of you that makes you realise that he’s a favourite song of the second kind, and so there’s nothing to worry about.
For once, the sparks aren’t the best part.

I don’t know when I became such a sucker for familiarity. I don’t know how it is that he is so familiar to me, or why it feels less like I’m getting to know him and more like I’m remembering who he is. How every smile, every touch brings me closer to the impossible conclusion that I’ve known him before, kissed him before, in some other existence.

You can always get to know someone by asking them straight forward questions. Where do you work? How tall are you? What did you study and where did you grow up? Grown up questions about things that grown-ups think matter. If you only ask the questions everyone else is asking, you’ll only get to know what everyone else knows.

What if I have different questions? I’m not interested in who he thinks he is. I’m not interested in who other people think he is. I don’t care what car he drives or what brands he wears. I refuse to fall in love with anything but the words that flutter from the crevices of his mind people failed to explore. I want to know what colour he likes his sunset. I want to know what he thinks of when he drives alone. I want to know what makes him sigh. These aren’t questions you can ask people, simply because these aren’t things most people know about themselves. The only answers we have ready are the ones we think matter.

I think that’s when someone stops being a stranger. When you ask them a question that makes them think and they answer it honestly, smiling as they talk, their eyes wandering, knowing they’ve never answered it before, oblivious to the part of their soul leaving through their words.

I want to talk to him, about his dreams and fears, and begin everything from the beginning. Taking time, if you think of it, is actually less time consuming. And only when the tide pulls back the sand from under your toes, you realize that you can’t hold onto something by holding on. Happiness doesn’t leave scars and peace is so difficult to remember. That’s why you need to keep it with you.

And that’s why I’d like him to stay. We all start as strangers.