Tag Archives: truth

A Fixing

It’s warm in December and I wake up to crows cawing with a ferocity I’m inexplicably used to. Little worm heads poke out of my strawberries that were never good enough to eat to begin with, and the rat that lives in the kitchen now has a partner called Martha and they seem very happy.

It’s terribly warm this December and the sweat that has settled into my hair seeps down to my scalp and begins to smell like the rot of the day that gets caught easily in fingernails, but can’t be completely scratched out. And who even invited the houseflies? Look at them, settling themselves down casually on yesterday’s muck before launching on today’s lunch.

It seem inevitable, that the death of the calendar year come with some sort of gloom. One must, however, celebrate the survival of it all. All the baseless worry and the baseless hope.

It starts with the cupboard. A lot of people say it starts with the bed; it ideally should start with the bed. But for me, it always starts with the cupboard. It starts with getting out all I have and arranging it into neat folded piles – the dresses, the bottoms, the never-once-worns. Once in a while I shuffle their assigned places in the cupboard. One never knows what works till one has tried it all. Fixing the disheveled heap of cloth and cloth and cloth, because it’s easier to fix than whatever it is that really needs fixing. Hanging the chiffons and georgettes because they unfold too easy, keeping the belts away because clothes don’t slide down any longer, making a mental note to fix this button, that hook, those straps because you’re now with new people in a new world and what may be old to the old people in the old world is still new here, if you just fix this button, that hook, those straps.

I find the patchwork shirt I wore the first time he found out I was crazy. I find the black skirt I wore the first time I found out he was. The shirt I failed an interview in. The sari I never wore to the wedding I couldn’t get myself to attend. All the cloth of all the clothes in all my lives except this one, lying there awaiting new meaning from the new year. If only it was easier to forget why what must end even began.

It always starts with the cupboard, the fixing. Easier to discard, easier to mend, what must be. Easier to discard than mend, which is where it gets complex. With humans too though, much more. Easier to discard than mend, is where it gets complex.

I pick up the old green dress with a hole in the hem from a cigarette burn three years ago. I bring out my sewing kit and sit cross legged with the dress in my lap, ready for the fixing. The needle is threaded with the remains of the green (olive green, not the bottle green of the dress) thread I have, and pushed in from back to front, repeatedly, till a shoddy job of fixing is done. It takes a short five minutes, and if one were to look from afar, one would never spot the gaping wound and the scab I’ve crafted on it.

Imagine now, fixing a soul. Finding the hole, feeling it out, understanding the reason behind it. Then taking the time to find the thread of the exact colour and threading it onto the needle that’ll hurt least. Having the strength to push it in from back to front as the soul winces in pain while it knows it’s for the best. Ensuring you’re doing a stellar job of fixing so that the soul itself can’t find the wound again if it looked. You can spend a year, you can spend a lifetime, and at the end of the day you’ll still question yourself on who it was who told you that you had the right to go about fixing souls, deciding what’s broken from your limited perspective.

That is why it always starts with the cupboard.
It takes an afternoon.

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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.

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.

Voices.

 “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” 
― Kurt Vonnegut 

I found this at the back of a notebook yesterday. I don’t even remember writing it.
But the handwriting was mine and it seemed like the kind of quote I’d jot down. You know, just to revisit when I have those long introspective talks with myself.

You ever talk to yourself? I do. All the time. Some days I push and motivate myself. Some days I tell myself it is indeed okay to slack a little. Some days I talk to empty spaces that I wish somebody would fill. The sad truth is that we’re all missing someone and secretly hoping that wherever they are, they’re missing us too. It takes more than you can imagine admitting it, though.

They say it’s perfectly normal to talk to yourself; you’re only crazy if you talk back.

Now I’ve got a little hypothesis here. I feel the concept of geometric similarity is beautiful. I resonate with enthusiasm when people draw parallels to my life, when their perspective and angles match mine. And yet alone, I’m not just one person.

People always have a secret world inside them than the one they show; sometimes two, sometimes a hundred. One day you’re someone, the other day you’re someone else. And you can’t go back to yesterday because you were a different person then, with different parallels and different perspectives and angles.
But we’re all gluttons for co-incidence. So when our worlds collide with someone else’s on a particular day, we’re stoked; heady at the thought of someone to fill the empty spaces we talk to. And when they don’t, we seek the other worlds inside ourselves; trying on different identities like dresses to see which one fits best.
When your romanticism fails, you become a bit of a cynic.
When your poetry fails, you become a bit robotic.
When your boundaries fail, you put up walls.

I am made and remade continuously; different people draw different worlds from me. And every once in a while I feel like I’d make a better ghost than a human being. A better idea than an entity. I lay still on my bed, gazing out the window into darkness full of nothing and yet inconspicuously everything, wondering what it will be tomorrow morning that’ll convince me to climb out of bed and choose the person I will be for the day. Everyone has an abyss of their own, and as I sink deeper into mine, all my opposing worlds combine to become one. And they talk to me as one while my eyes get heavy, recalling incidents from years before, from lunch today, and from a past life – telling me in unison how exactly I feel; who exactly I am.

Sometimes I agree.
It’s perfectly normal to talk to yourself.

Sometimes I talk back.
We have to be careful who we pretend to be.

 

 

 

 

 

Feature Image by Akin Cetine