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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

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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.

Paper Person

I recently read a book called Paper Towns. It’s a fun read and all on the surface, but what really got me what the concept of paper towns itself. When companies that make maps come out with their original version of a map, they plant a bunch of fake towns on the map in random spots with random names to ensure anybody copying their map gets caught. So when unsuspecting people decide to travel to said fake towns marked on the map (in a random place with a random name), they just reach the area and find nothing. But sometimes, people settle down on this random bit of land and use the name marked on the map and hence paper towns come into existence, being made real by virtue of having been put on a map.

Did you know this happens with people too? You create a person for yourself in a random place with a random name, believe he exists and tailor him to your own version of perfection. And one day, you go to a random place with a random name and he’s there. In flesh and blood, unshaven, unironed, unabashedly himself. And nobody else knows it but he’s come into existence just then, being made real by virtue of having been designed by you.

Did nobody tell you you can create people?

It’s Almost The End Of The Year

“I have shed my skin so many times.
The graveyards must be full of all the people I used to be”

It’s almost the end of the year. Can you feel it yet?

The tip of my nose goes pink sometimes and my eyebrows are so frozen I can’t even be surprised. Literally. Everyone’s getting their red and shimmer out. Buble’s singing out of every nook and cranny, his fondue voice making you mentally sway as you make your way to yet another get-together. Every house has a Christmas tree outside, its plastic branches decorated with leftover disco balls and little figurines collected by children too young to have memories. Everyone’s slacking just a bit more at work; eating just a bit more dessert, drinking just a bit more wine, feeling just a bit more in love or just a whole lot more alone. It’s almost the end of the year. Can you feel it yet?

It’s nearly time to decide who the new you will be. Walls are coming down and being built everywhere; some more quietly than others. People are talking to people, eager to rewrite beginnings or endings, looking for peace of mind like it was promised. We sit with our bundles of painful memories, not letting them roll out of our eyes and onto our cheeks, ready to learn from them and dispose them off like soiled items, only to realize that we barely even remember the things we never thought we’d forget. As someone famously said, the future is really that forgiving. Can you feel it yet?

There’s suddenly more cookies and rum cake and adipose tissue in life than there is intent. We all have these plan-less goals for ourselves, neatly tucked away in corners of our subservient minds, waiting for a fresh calendar to fix ourselves top down because right now we’re too busy treating our hearts as metaphors. When’s the last time you actually put your hand to your chest and felt your heartbeat? It’s a powerful thing. It makes you so aware of every passing second, so awake to the urgency of accomplishment. You begin to wonder what it was that made you think you had time. Can you feel it yet?

You think back to the times you used to think back to those moments. From another time, another place. It doesn’t make you smile and it doesn’t make you sad. It just makes you look away now. Love left your body, momentarily, yet long enough for you to realize that you need to leave some people behind in this year. We’ve spent too much time decorating our lives with leftover disco balls and little figurines, collected over time in more ways than one, as day by day we grow a bit more envious of those children too young to have memories. Can you feel it yet?

It’s almost the end of the year and you’re praying that by the end of the next you’ll have that job. That waistline. That girl. It’s what you prayed for the last year and the year before last. It’s what you’ll pray for the next year and the year after that. A different job. A smaller waistline. Another girl. Another cliché.

This year, I want to read a bucket list through. I want to really understand the colour purple. I want to cook pad thai and a mean little key lime pie. I want to swim in a new sea. I want to be an art parasite. I want to be everyone I used to be and more. There’s just so much room, now that it’s empty. I want to be the people I wanted to be with, because I always believed in forever.

I wish all of you peace and so much love. I hope you bask in happy vibes and drink mellow dreams and if you must break, I pray his kisses gave you butterflies as they came and strong art as they left.

Zen. 2015.

Musings of the Moth-Human

“I saw this moth in my room, it was going towards the light bulb and it was buzzing around it and I wanted to know why they did that, so I looked it up. It’s because moths are looking for the moon, they’re looking for moonlight because they’re trying to fly north. So this moth, everything in it is telling it to do exactly what it’s doing. It’s doing the right thing, but it’s just the wrong light.”
– Childish Gambino

I wanted to be happy. We writers, we take words too literally. So when I say I wanted to be happy, I don’t mean I wanted to be exhilarated. I didn’t want to be beaming and buoyant every waking moment. I just wanted to be happy. The simple kind of happy, without all the frills. The fragile kind of happy, that you strive to keep because it’s so precious and so hard to come by. The peaceful kind of happy, that lets you breathe at a constant rate all day.

I’ve felt like that before. Those days I sat with my people under marmalade skies, quoting Chanel and Freud in the same drift of conversation as we spoke out our thoughts in screams or subtext; depending on the subject in question. We laughed and loved and ate and slept like a can of wine, fancy and brassy all at once, and that was enough.

I don’t know when it stopped being enough.

I suddenly wanted to be in love. I thought that would make me happier. I sought, I waited, I loved over and over again. I love you, I won’t tell you, but you can tell. Don’t be scared, don’t be appalled, what are you panicking for? Did you think you were special? I love everyone. I love everything. You’re not the only one I love, but I love you. I’m just one of those people, who fall in love with anything that shows me its raw soul, straight up until they show me what became of that raw soul.

What makes us think we humans are any different from those moths?
Happiness is our moon. And we’re all convinced that love or money or beauty are the paths we need to take; little light bulbs hanging low enough for us to feel we’re headed home. I speak for all us moth-humans who picked love; what were we thinking? What were we thinking, walking around with our souls unfenced, unwittingly seeing the moon in the candle flicker that warmed his eyes as he sat across the table and spoke of how much money there was yet to be made in the world.

Sometimes I feel words take away from an emotion as much as they give to it. Just like light hinders vision as much as it aids.

So we moth-humans who picked love, we did what we could. We made little villages in our hearts for them and smiled when we thought they were thinking of us. We wrote letters and spoke poetry, sang songs and kissed scars and wondered what it was that made them wonder why.
Everything in us telling us to do exactly what we’re doing; we’re doing the right thing, but it’s just the wrong light.

How does the moth really find the moon, then? Does it hurt itself on bulbs the way we do? I want to go to a bookstore and leave notes at the ends of books I’ve loved for people who read them, because I know they’re people I won’t fall out of love with. I want to stop falling out of love with people.
You’re not the only one I fell out of love with, but I fell out of love with you. I’m just one of those people, who fall in love with anything that shows me its raw soul, straight up until they show me what became of that raw soul.

And if I can’t find my moon of happiness, I’ll make do with the moth-humans who think the path to it is love. Passionate, all-consuming, soul-wrenching love. I don’t know when it stopped being enough.

Never a Night Better

Tickets in hand, we gathered in the foyer,
each holding our drink steady, tip-toeing
the great museum staircase, one
careful step at a time — a skip over a coat,
a slight left around the teenage couple — eyes
scanning the impossible crowd for openings
just wide enough for two.

“We got the nosebleed seats,” you said,
leaning yourself on the marble handrail,
leaving a mid-western couple to my side,
and for a moment I felt the evening
and its mystery envelope me in a rush.

How sweet the contrafact in the background
and Ivan, fast but soft on the xylophone,
and you and I, like high school sweethearts,
stealing glances from each other.

I remember the lights being dim, the soft drum
roll giving way to Larry on the tenor sax,
the way your head found my shoulder, and
the way our wine glasses kissed in toast,
as if there was never a night better.

Later, when we stepped out to face the skyline,
my breath rising to join the winter fog,
you held my hand — lightly at first,
and then with urgency.
And I could have sworn that,
were someone to see us
from the windows of the city,
the two of our silhouettes
would have been one.


This poem was originally written by Ayushman Khazanchi.
All rights remain with the poet.

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?

Sepia-toned Reflections

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

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

NOW!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, you teach me here first”

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

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

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

Ouuuuuch! Damn that glass thread!

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

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

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

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

Click.

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

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

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

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