Tag Archives: sad

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.

The Peril in Being Cool

He said “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

– The Velveteen Rabbit.

You ever go a string of days feeling a feeling you’re no stranger to, and then wake up one morning to decide you never want to feel like that again?
I think I’m about to. I’m about to never feel like that again. And I’ll tell you exactly how.

I’ve been in this situation before and I’ve been this person before and let’s just say the situation got the better of me. I argued with myself first. This is me. This is me at my rawest and purest and it’s who I am. If something doesn’t fit me, I discard it. As a rule.
I can’t change who I am at the very base.

Oh… but I can.

People can be complicated, yes, but I am people too. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s intoxicating when somebody is so unapologetically who they are. It’s not about changing yourself so much as changing perspective, which is just a pretty way of saying growing up. I could spend my life shutting my windows to every thunderstorm that comes my way in fear, or I could wake up one day and use its roar to comfort myself with the thought that even nature needs to scream sometimes.
Perspective.

I’d say I’d like to stop thinking, for light hinders sight as much as it helps. But the world knows that’s easier said than done.
So I’ll say I’d like to feel more. Just feel, and if it feels like home, follow its path. Trust the vibes that you get. Energy doesn’t lie. Stop the moment the path feels unfamiliar. Explore it from a distance. Turn back the moment the path feels resistive. Of all the things you allow on this path, be it pain or loss or intolerable passion, the one thing you shouldn’t allow is mediocrity.

I enjoy controlled loneliness. I like wandering around the city alone. I’m not afraid of coming back to an empty house and lying down in an empty bed. What I am afraid of is having no one to miss. Nobody who stirs me up inside; the thought of whom puts everything else on hold. And with time and age and experience and heartbreak and all the maturity that comes with these, I’ve realized no one’s ‘the one’ unless you make them the one.

Can I promise to never get upset or show signs of neediness? No, I can’t. I wouldn’t call this love if that was something I could promise. I will melt inside when it’s called for and I will get bat-shit crazy when it’s uncalled for because what I choose to feel is all-consuming or nothing at all. It’s my definition of real. Real emotions and real people. With nothing to hide, only perspectives to change.

I feel younger today. Like time actually gave me time. I feel like I have the time it takes. And even if by the time I am Real, most of my hair has been loved off, and I get loose in the joints and very shabby, it won’t matter because once I’m Real, I can’t be ugly. Except to people who don’t understand.

And that’s precisely the peril in being cool. You won’t understand.

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?

Things We Tell Ourselves

I balanced myself on the lean parapet outside the office. It was raining, and there was a meeting going on inside the office, and cutting his call was simply not an option. So I balanced myself as he spoke, catching bits of raindrops on my eyelashes.

“… and you won’t believe what she said!” He sounded appalled. More amused than disturbed by whatever news he was going to give me, but appalled nonetheless. “She texted back saying ‘Stay out of my life!’ ”

Ouch. That’s a bit harsh. The only time I ever said that to someone was when I was sixteen and I caught my boyfriend texting another girl calling her ‘babe’. Turns out I was right asking him to stay out of my life though, but that’s a story for another day.

“… and this is what I get?” he continues. “Who reacts like that when their ex sends them a nice picture of them? I just thought she’d like to have it.”

It DID seem a little ridiculous. In fact, it seemed downright preposterous that someone would talk to him like that. I didn’t need to be blinded by how much I adored him to say “Oh, chill out, she’s just being paranoid.” (Textbook. Never sound paranoid when talking to the guy you like. Ever.)

My day went on and it rained and poured and I stayed back late at work and took a lift home in a friend’s car. As I saw rain mist up my window, I did what anyone with a decent childhood does on a misty window. I wrote my name and made a smiley face. I think I was really happy. We may not have been in love, we definitely weren’t dating each other, but we were so … connected.

He’d call when he woke up to tell me what he’d dreamt of, I’d call when I’d get bored at work, we’d call each other at night to recount our day and I’d always ALWAYS send him songs I liked and he’d always ALWAYS listen to them. It was comfortable and easy and it made me smile without realizing. I liked being the one he complained to, I think. Or the one he spoke to about his dreams and ambitions.
“I want to be a one mark answer in a history paper,” he’d say, stuffing his face in my pillow because that’s how he slept, all wrapped up in my blanket like a human burrito.

And then it happened. What always happens. Life.
He helped me pack and move and dispose and sell things off and all the while, I felt it. I’d say it was chemistry but that’d be putting it in high school terms. So, for lack of a better word, I’ll say it was warmth. I felt it as he said goodbye and I moved to a new city and I felt it as he told me that just because he never said it doesn’t mean he didn’t show it or feel it and he was right. He did.

I didn’t shed a tear as I left, you know? I was so convinced things would work. We may not have been in love, we definitely weren’t dating each other, but we’d stay connected. Each other’s, at some plane.

Ah, Expectation, you filthy mistress!

I was in a new job. A new city. A new life, entirely. Of course I got busy.  I still called him. I think he got busy too. I think he may have gotten busier than he intended to. And somewhere between the unanswered calls and unread message, somewhere in the maze of new people and old family, somewhere in the spiral of Sylvia Plath quotations and different bed timings, I think I got used to not calling him.

I cut the line when he called today. It caught me by surprise and in all the excitement I cut the line. And I almost instantly called back when something in my head stopped me. I think I had nothing to say to him. I think I’d like to have asked him why he didn’t call or text anymore and heard him say he got busy, all the while knowing that’d be the answer. I know he got busy. I just thought I meant enough to him for that to not matter.

And I had nothing much to do so I opened a book and started reading it to distract myself. Calling him back was simply not an option. I guess that’s the only reason one could have asked him to stay out of their life. He was doing it anyway, might as well make it seem like your idea, right?
So I read my book and got involved in the story as the boy spoke about the girl he loved and I realized… in the end, in love, we all become stories.

And I hope he doesn’t end up just a one mark answer in a history paper.

Strangers With Memories

I watched half the semi-final. Half the opera. Maybe two thirds of the movie at the theatre yesterday. I didn’t quite taste the mint in my pepperoni. We ordered mint pepperoni? When did that get on the menu? I burned my little finger on the stove too. And every time, there was no reply.

What do you tell yourself the hundredth time you check your phone?

You’ve taken a step you can’t take back and Cupid’s demanding back his arrow. You’ve given someone things you weren’t even sure you had and now text message notifications are a game of Russian roulette, and his name is the bullet. Well, sometimes your tank is fueled up, but the track just ends.

He smirks when I talk like this. You’re young and foolish, he says. You’ll get older and realize love isn’t like this. It’s not just a bunch of moments that make you melt in between those of electricity and magic.

Well what is it then, I ask? Is it a convenient place you find once you’re done chasing your career and living it up with your friends?

I guess, yeah.

Well, if you keep letting go of the magic and electricity, that’s what it’s going to come to eventually, isn’t it?

He doesn’t reply. He’s probably on a work call. I wonder what he’ll do with his fame and millions some day. He’ll probably come home to someone who married him for them. Or not. They do say it all works out in the end.

We all do that. Spend our lives building ourselves for our idea of perfection, leaving love behind when it comes without knocking, thinking we’ll find ‘the one’ when the time is right, trying to convince ourselves that it does not matter how the edges of us fit into the edges of others as long as, once smashed together, something that resembles a picture emerges.

How do people start something without the idea of infinity? I don’t want forever. It’s impractical and unreasonable and we’re all adults and mature and know better than to set expectations. And yet, I think the idea is beautiful and I want it. Is it so bad if I want him to want it? Don’t we all deserve that? Some kind of blazing love that sets your soul on fire; that you wish could last but you know it won’t and somehow that’s okay, as long as you both wish it.

And when he says he won’t forget me, I can tell you that’s untrue. Because every day since we parted ways I thought less and less of him. I called him, sometimes; I tried to keep it alive. But you know what the problem with a stream of feelings that run one way is?

You know you don’t have to feel anything at all. But somewhere, deep inside, you want to.

And here comes the feeling you thought you’d forgotten. And you forget to check your phone and you accidentally leave behind the book he gave you; and one day you wake up and you realize the two are you are just strangers with memories.

And you had so much love to give once, and you were so good at it. But maybe that’s not enough. Maybe you need to love someone who wants to be loved. And maybe that’s more difficult than it sounds.

This is the song that I stumbled upon and got inspired by to write the article. The feelings are genuine and the people are real, though. Any writer who tells you otherwise is lying.
We all love like fools.
There really is no other way to love.

Love is such a big word; it really ought to have more letters.
They barely put any mint in that pepperoni anyway.