Tag Archives: nostalgia

Summum Bonum

Today, like everyday, I woke up thinking about you.

But it’s raining today, so I’ll tell you about it.

It was a hot day, the temperature was predicted to hit a high of 41 degrees celsius and yet, I swear, at about 3.00 pm it hit 43. The elderly in the house had swapped their morning tea for lime juice.  The family dog was sitting quietly in the shade and lapping up water from his steel bowl. Crows circled the trees that posed as regular haunts for peacocks that frequent this part of Delhi. Even mangoes that fell from the mango trees had fallen too early, not because they were ripe, but because the scorching heat had sucked the strength from its branches so that they couldn’t hold on to the fruit any longer.

I woke up to the sound of the cleaner using the hard brush broom to sweep up all the dead leaves from our verandah. They crunched and scratched as they moved from the grass to the earth, smooth but parched from the summer it wasn’t prepared to face. Dust and dead leaves, a golden yellow heap in one corner of the house.

I was dreaming of you I think, when I woke up. I’m not sure what the contents of the dream were, but you did feature in it; you were probably the star. Probably, yes, because you were iridescent. Even in my sleep my subconscious had decided to focus the lens on your face and the world around you was just a disappointing backdrop, that failed, and how, to live up to the foreground. I looked at you and gulped – you looked like a dark cloud in a desert. You could bring rain and you could bring a storm and I’d take what I got because you were iridescent and I couldn’t look away.

I was dreaming of you when I woke up to the crunching and scratching of brown leaves on brown grass. We ate melon for breakfast, and took tea without milk, and then went up to the roof to pour water over every square inch of it. Grandpa says it cools the house below, but I think he just likes going up there to enjoy a couple of minutes of silence in the one place in his house where Grandma can’t reach – or at least where her voice can’t reach. He loves her, but it’s a hot day, hotter than predicted, and therefore hotter than expected, and even the petals of the purple summer flowers are allowed to protest in silence with their browning edges, so why can’t Grandpa.

It’s the hottest 29th of April in 29 years and the news channels have all sorts of things to say about it. The opposition is blaming the ruling party and the church is blaming science and Grandma is blaming Grandpa, and in the window of the house next door, the toddler shrieks with delight to commemorate her first spoonful of mashed unripe mango.

I sit in the master bedroom and join Usha, the help, as we fan my grandparents with yesterday’s newspapers (seventy odd years back the only electric fan in the room was thoughtlessly installed in the north west corner, a corner now full of pictures of the children who left the city when the summers began to get too hot). We fan them as Grandma talks of how things were back in their day, how the summers actually brought everyone together in those days in Srinagar, when they’d pluck apples out of trees from their backyards and play house in their mother’s dupattas. The younger generations, she says, forget to give thanks for the little things.

I smile and look away, silently disagreeing, because today, like everyday, I woke up thinking about you and with it came a wave of happiness. I had sighed, more than once, as I tossed about in bed, dodging the morning light that filtered through the blinds so I could go back to sleep and see your face again. I had sighed and I had smiled and I refuse to believe that in that moment I hadn’t given thanks for the little things. For the silly nicknames and the imminent laughter, for the words in verse and the words in prose, and even the words that we never write. For the space on your bookshelf, for the dim yellow-light lamp, for the movies we’ll never finish and the books we’ll never start and the kisses aimed at foreheads and noses and chins.

And all of a sudden it began to rain. At first we just heard the light pitter patter on the terracotta that capped the verandah, but it slowly grew stronger and louder, accompanied by thunder and lightening and shrieks from the toddler, once again rejoicing, her arms and hair and toes splattered with mango pulp (because her mother had warned her the bowl should be clean when she’s done).

A cool breeze blew into the house and the golden yellow heap of dust and dead leaves soared into the air and back onto the lawn. Inside the house, Grandma pecked Grandpa on his cheek and Usha cleared the newspapers and the family dog came running to my feet, trying to hide from the thunder and the lightening. And with all this, and everything else, I thought of you, just the way I do everyday. I thought of you and the little things.

And it rained today, so I thought you should know.

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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.

Something to Forget Me By

Why was it that during the first ice-breaker in college, when the whole class had to go stand up and say their name and where they were from, I got so incredibly nervous? Like, I know my name, I know where I’m from; this shouldn’t be a problem.

Maybe it’s the pressure of first impressions that society’s created on us now terrified mortals. That’s probably why my best friends on campus include a girl I hated for the whole of my first semester just because she gave me the heebie jeebies and a boy with whom my first interaction included him running after a mini-football on the Bogmalo Beach shouting “Hey! Easy! Mommy told me not to get my ball wet!”

There was a time I’d complain about the freeze-dried fruit distribution in my Gelato. Now the post Sunday lunch Mother Dairy butterscotch ice cream makes me feel sexy. Like I’m eating a soft spoonful of an affair. With crunchies.

But time moves on and so does life and the fat get thin and the thin get fat and group dynamics change and re-change because nobody really likes fat people, and at the end of four years you’re left wondering how you ever got along without these people who are now more family than family itself.

And yet, forever’s not what it used to be.

He’ll finally get out there and become a standup comedian, flying for a show to Russia, flying business class, in fact, because that’s just how he rolls now. She’ll probably be the CEO of some company that you always thought was a bank’s name.
And you’ll read about them in the papers and wonder if you should call. But instead you’ll just post something on their Facebook wall and get on with your life. Damn shame.

And yet, they’ll be a part of you. In their own small way. Even the random people you interact with everyday. You might not remember their name or face ten years from now. But you’ll remember them as the person who introduced you to your now favorite music, or the guy who helped you pass that godforsaken subject, or the girl who saw you crying and said “If someone breaks your heart, just punch them in the face. Seriously just punch them in the face and go get some ice cream”.  Even if she was just quoting Wiz Khalifa.

And suddenly, after your college years, you’re not the same person anymore. You like sleeping because it’s like being dead, only without the commitment. You aren’t ‘weirded out’ by alcoholics and junkies because you realize they’re just humans with a different passion than yours. And you realize fat people are the nicest of them all.

In French, you don’t really say “I miss you”. You say “tu me manques” which, I am told, is closer to “you are missing from me”. I love that. It’s beautiful, really. Like you’re a part of me that I’m currently functioning without. I’ll miss everyone I leave behind. And when I do, I hope there’s a part of me in them. Something I left behind. Something to forget me by.

Maybe I’m a Dark Star

“To know one’s own state is not a simple matter. One cannot look directly at one’s own face with one’s own eyes, for example. One has no choice but to look at one’s reflection in the mirror. Through experience, we come to believe that the image is correct, but that is all.”
― Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

I met all kinds of people this year; each one kind of left a bit of themselves behind. And the world that I’d created for myself, with my own ideas of black and white and acceptable grays, ultimately came crashing down. Things changed in the last one year. It’s funny how you realize you’ve changed by small simple things. A song doesn’t make you feel the way it used to. A fragrance doesn’t stir what it used to inside of you. One passive sense at a time, you realize, you’re a different person.

It gets harder every day; accepting that you kind of forgot color exists. People can be blue all their life, and for a fraction of a second they come in contact with someone yellow, and suddenly, just like that, they’re green. It’s nobody’s fault really, it’s a pigment thing. But that’s how long it takes for someone to change you. One look, one smile, one interaction; we’re all dynamic, ever changing. It scares me sometimes, how much I let people affect me.

And I can’t go back to yesterday, because I was a different person then. I believed in true love, I really did. I’m not so sure anymore. People seem to be living out of convenience more than anything else. I can’t love you because you’re too young, too old, too far away, and too inconvenient to love.

Oh, but I can. If only you’d let me.

So many people.  So many nonentities that now constitute my world. So many times I tried to keep myself to myself. So many cages put up and torn down. To what avail?
At the end of the day, we’re all just people, trying in ways we know how. The trouble is that we’re almost always on a different page. Haven’t you realized how your idea of a happy ending changes as you progress through a book? One can’t sit on page 7 thinking of all the hidden opportunities, new characters and plot twists that lay ahead and still hope for love to catch up.
It’s not something that catches up with you.
It sneaks into your life when you’re least expecting it, at the most inconvenient of times, and it makes you question things. And while you’re still contemplating and wondering, it begins to run away. And then it’s up to you to catch up with it.

But opportunity is an ill-mannered guest. And life goes faster than it comes to you.

I think I may have let it go once. I may have thought about it too long, and it may have slipped out from right between my fingers. I think that was the day I became a little evasive. I met a lot of broken people after that. We had chemistry, we had space and we had the capacity to love. And then I felt terrified because I realized that once people are broken in particular ways, they can never go back, and this is something no one ever tells you early enough and it never fails to astonish you to see people in your life break one by one. You wonder when it’s going to be your turn, or if it’s already happened.

Is that why it’s not working this time? Have I forgotten how to love right? Maybe I love differently because I’m a different person now. Maybe I love differently because even though that song doesn’t make me feel the way it did, I found another song that does.

And you can’t hear it, because it’s on the inconvenient end of your playlist.