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In Between

From Sandra from Bandra to Celine from Dion – My Heart Will Go On

Credits - indiantelevision.com
Credits – indiantelevision.com

Every time Celine Dion’s Titanic song came on TV, Pa would close his eyes and begin singing. He wouldn’t sing the song as much as imitate the way Celine Dion’s mouth opened and closed at certain points. When I started handling the remote control and learnt what the mute button does, I’d hit it and he would freeze. I’d unmute it and he’d unfreeze. Through my childhood – this used to be our favourite game.

My heart will go on used to be my school anthem, he said. Thereafter, all English songs became his school anthems. From Backstreet boys to the Friends theme song.

It had always been his dream to study in a convent school, to speak in English, to watch English films without subtitles. This led him to be fascinated with those who spoke English fearlessly and fluently.

He believed that my sister was far more fluent than anyone in the family because she was able to pronounce difficult words effortlessly.

What is that word, he asked me one day when we were watching Simi Garewal.

-Redezvas, I said.

-No – that’s not how you pronounce it. Call your sister.

-She rolled her tongue, pouted here and there and said – Raundevoo.

-Ah! he said, delighted. His tiny eyes smiling.

A week before Christmas last year, he came to me and asked if I knew any Carol songs. I found some that we both knew from having watched Home Alone obsessively. I played them for him. He bobbed his head this way and that.

–School alli ittu ee haadu (We had this in school)

— Haan, howdu, aaytu (haan, yes, ok)

So while my father was busy making faces to match Celine Dion’s song, my brother was convinced that the song was written for him. He played with his toy cars with an insane energy singing – ‘My Hot wheel go on and on’

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I seem to have inherited some part of this fascination with English. In school, I was crazy about all the catholic girls in my class. I wanted to be very much like them – smell like them, bring lunch dabbas with ham sandwiches and hot dogs in them.

On the rare occasion that I went to their homes, my head would wrap itself around whatever smell there was. In Madam Rose’s tuition, I spent all my time trying to figure out where the bedroom was so I could quickly go smell it.

Sometime back, I watched this documentary, Where’s Sandra? by Paromita Vohra and was immediately reminded of my school girl days – How I longed to go to Mass and Sunday church. How I once told Madam Tara that I was Christian too so could she please allow me to accompany my other Christian friends to go build Baby Jesus’ crib?

I remembered a lanky tree we stuck in the living room of our Belgaum home and how we proceeded to assault it with ribbons and chocolates. I was crazy about Christmas and cakes and cookies.

I once spat out all the water I was drinking when my friend said that they give wine at some communion type thing in church. Wine was what my father made excuses to drink- with great difficulty to avoid amma’s pressing looks.

-It’s actually grape juice.

-It’s good for the heart.

-I’m drinking white wine. The red is actually bad for health.

-I’m drinking red wine. The white is actually bad for health.

It appeared that my mother was the most unsocial parent so every time I took friends home, she would shrug. And I was amused that in the homes of various catholic friends, their mothers seemed open with not just their children but also me. “Yes sweetheart – what’s your name,” they’d ask me. And I’d smile shyly.

-Your mom called me sweetheart! She’s so sweet – I’d say to my friend.

Josephine and I met in college. She’d wear sleeveless tops and midi skirts & again, I longed to wear the things she did. She brought me homemade beef pickle in glass jars and I emptied them into steel dabbas and told people at home that she’d made me chicken chilli pickle.

Somethings never change. I buy mouth-watering beef pickles at North-East food fests, bring them home, tear the beef label, write chilli on them with a black pen and keep them in the fridge next to the Mallige Hoovu kept for God. Something else that hasn’t changed is that I still watch English films with subtitles (only reason why I was overjoyed about Netflix and Prime coming to India.) I have a nagging worry that if there aren’t subtitles, I will lose out on bits of the film – especially when white people talk fast.

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There are many reasons to love Where’s Sandra? I love that when you watch it – you aren’t just seeing Bombay – you are also hearing it.

You hear the sound of moving taxis in Bandra where she interviews shopkeepers and Sandras. The drone of the sound of Taxis pulling themselves together – the kind that I imagine comes from the pit of Bombay Taxi engines – like the sounds that came from the pit of my brother’s stomach when he played with his toy cars.

My favourite woman in the documentary is Sandra D’Souza. Her face moves from one expression to the next so quickly – it brings to mind the faces of Catholic mothers whose daughters wanted you to ask them permission for night-overs at your house.

The face goes from jolly to strict in a matter of seconds. So you learn to be watchful in their presence – you train yourself to look at your hands because you have the feeling that if you look in their faces – even if you haven’t lied, you will want to admit to having lied.

Sandra here – sits by the piano and under her sometimes stern, sometimes playful gaze, you hear the story of a community adjusting to a vast city.

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Featured Image Credits – indiantelevision.com

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In Between

Homecoming

There is a strange melancholy that hangs around my neck these days and I feel it most strongly when I am riding back home, when what needs to be proven hasn’t been proven, when the day has ended and the city is hurrying its people back into homes and its long arms of wait. I feel it in the wind speeding by my ears, I feel it in the red light that’s bouncing off from surface to surface, I feel it when I pass by buildings that have no business looking the same as they did 9 years ago, I feel it in my throat before I feel it in my eyes. It’s a heavy lump that I find hard to swallow but when I do, it drops down to my stomach in a whisper and then my eyes are wet. Before long, I am trying to disengage with whatever it is that has made me cry but I don’t seem to have the resolve it takes to say no to pain.

Hands from my past put their weight on my shoulders and urge me to look back; his hands left bitterly in my hair are no longer part of my face, but they are there until I learn to disown my smell from me. As a child, I clung to objects, to things more than to people. I liked making memories so I could keep them, save them, to be recalled later. A perfume bottle that I really liked on him is there somewhere in my cupboard now. Ticket stubs from movies stolen between classes are tucked away neatly in a box. Old journals recounting how and why I felt betrayed by people, why I liked somebody, why I hated myself — all pressed onto paper, sealed into a past that I see now and then in the rear view mirror of passing cars and their noises.

There is sand in a small bottle, there is a big stone, the sort of perfect stone that catches your eye during imperfect visits to beaches and all you can think about is how lucky you are to find a perfect stone. It’s perfect because it looks like the way stones are supposed to in your head, where there is a perfect shape for every word heard. There are sea shells, there are umbrella sticks in a pen stand, there are all my notebooks from MA classes and chocolate wrappers in between these notebooks.

I spend a lot of time in making sure these memories seem real to me at a later time when perhaps I have forgotten to look where I most looked. I have always been afraid of things coming to an end, goodbyes and departure and all. It’s crazy but they are what make memories possible. In my head, the memories are curves inked with trees I have seen in my childhood. Mostly big ones you see on your way to City B which your mother deceived you into believing, was only an hour away. There are also fields which come and go like the sound of slow moving vehicles. A truck or lorry on the highway. That is what I usually come home to and what I miss the most about childhood — sounds and smells.

Memory is that far away truck, its headlights casting distorted shadows on the road ahead, a game I am trying to win that nobody is aware of, not even the truck driver, not even my parents in the back seat who are talking about relatives, some of whom I don’t even know. Memory is also a craving I feel in my gut to go back to those godawful ambassador cars from my childhood and sit between silence and boredom, listening to the quiet language of trees outside.

At the end of one such long journey, by which time I had forgiven my mother, I remember a basket of chocolates waiting for us by the bed. For two days after that I was left with a disgusting after taste of chocolate, the kind that you think will make you hate chocolate forever, finally christening you into adulthood where chocolates aren’t eaten. But then days later, somebody gives you Cadbury’s Dairy Milk and you don’t want to be adult anymore.

My shoe size has always been 4. And I notice it thrice a year when I am buying new shoes. They look weirdly at me in the store but that’s maybe the only thing about myself that I like to admit I am proud of – that I have tiny feet, that when I put them on a stool at my desk, I like seeing that they don’t take that much space.

There’s a white shirt with unreadable memorabilia scribbled in marker pens. When I think of it, I think of how the dean was upset because we had touched each other’s backs and written how much we would miss each other. So upset that he made a big guy take his shirt off in front of us. I remember feeling frightened that day. He said he was going to call our parents and tell on us.

So much of homecoming is also standing in the ugly kitchen and telling my mother that I failed math again and she is looking at me, murder in her eyes, her lips, quivering in grave silence, her nose ring becoming bigger and bigger with everything she is not saying to me. So much of homecoming today is also never having to tell parents that you failed or passed.

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In Between

Of Old Homes and New

Today, I saw time slip from between my fingers and hide behind familiar trees and houses and shops and their shadows. Balling up to finally start riding the two wheeler on the main road is the first best thing to have happened last year. I don’t say this to myself often but it has enabled a certain kind of freedom that can only come from being responsible for my own transport no matter where I am or where I have to be. Not that I don’t miss the one and a half/double meter hassling with auto drivers, but it is a strange pride, this one. Getting around the city, knowing certain short-cuts, knowing what routes to avoid at what hours- these, for a long time remained parting wisdom and long prologues to farewells only among grown ups and friends who had vehicles. I would listen with intent, hoping they would make a mistake so I could catch on and instruct them about this other road that nobody knows about and how closer it is to our destination.

I make the mental map myself now. I stop, ask for directions, use GPS and everything and it is bloody intense. But today none of that happened. I rode to the other end of the world to deliver a cheque and caught myself smiling at the prospect of visiting my old house. I took the correct turns and noticed that nothing much had changed. I was pulled 8 years back into Jayanagar 7th Block. I saw Channel 9, Coffee Day, the Government hospital which, I was surprised to see, still functions. The street looked narrow somehow. It was wider in my head, and perfect. It’s like somebody squeezed into my memory and narrowed the streets down. Young boys playing cricket and all, I couldn’t remember if they had always been there, playing cricket, screaming, making way for vehicles. How could I not have remembered this tiny bit of detail?

The house looked the same, thankfully. It stood the way it always has, in my head. White and 3 floors. The owners have now added layers of grills. I tried peeking into the window of a room which I remember now as the most neglected room. I re-winded to when I was 16 and in love. Walking the length of the corridors, making sure my feet were stepping on the insides of the box tiles and not on the lines, whispering into the phone, sitting with books around me and watching snowy make his way into my arms. Snowy was my first dog. I found and lost him within a month in that home. A lot of firsts happened in this house. I remember them all.

I rode slow until the dead-end forced me to look for the bakery my brother would be sent to so often. Bread, cheese, butter, chips and pepsi. The footpath was painted yellow and green. I remember walking there, earphones plugged in, drowning my head in imagined miseries, none of which have come true btw.

As I was heading back to my now home, I took a left instead of right because I wanted to go see my school. It was still there but I expected it to be bigger. It was sad to see it shrunken down in size. I almost felt bad for it. Somehow all the resentment I had against the school and its people seemed to peel away from me. I thought of all the things I hoped would remain permanent when I lived in this part of the city. I looked fondly at the shop in front of a former home and remembered a birthday I tried hard to make perfect. How I wanted to give a box of chuckles to classmates and how I convinced the shopkeeper to get a whole new box for me.

So much has changed, so much more is going to. It’s probably only now that I am not as afraid of change as I was when I grew up in the other part of the city. The city that I spend time in now, is carefree and I don’t want to know why and how but it is making me unafraid of change.

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In Between

Fusun

Orhan Pamuk has been giving me mild orgasms all evening. I am only half way through the book and I have wept twice already. Kemal Bey, is a hoarder like I am. And so, as I unashamedly encouraged him and smiled many a haughty smiles every time he sneaked and hid in his pockets, something Fusun had touched, held or seen, I remembered all the receipts stashed away fondly in secret cupboards, from ‘seminar’ related outings I had managed getting away to. Mother’s breakdown following the discovery of one such receipt is something I would like to dedicate a whole post to.

I like how he thinks of time and events as means of recording how and when he was happy. I died of envy when he managed to write why and how the air and objects around Fusun eventually become his only saviors from escalating into a whole another kind of madness. He isn’t at all curious to know if he is putting either his readers or Fusun’s parents to an irritated slumber as he goes on to dine with them for 8 years. Frankly, it gave me hope and denied me guilt when I now look back upon the people and homes I have imposed my company on.

His narrative of the mad pursuit of simpler times he spent with Fusun are shamelessly generous with the information they give. And I basked in his shamelessness. Overjoyed, as I was, knowing I wasn’t the only hopeless hoarder there ever was. I sighed whenever he felt seized by relief after obtaining these objects. I smiled at the little discoveries he makes on this mad journey. ‘Happiness’, he says, ‘means being close to the one you love’. Has there been a simpler truth? And this is none of the parents are important bullshit. It’s more real because this is love the way one feels, at least the way I feel, back here, outside ‘The Museum of Innocence’. It’s how the air around them becomes desirable simply because they are breathing it. It’s how you begin to feel that the objects that they hold are capable of bringing you the same warmth.

I went back to all the ticket stubs I had collected over the years, all the perfect rocks on the beach I struggled to look for, 2 straws from a drink shared, boarding passes, tissue papers all currently at display on the shelf in my museum.

I haven’t said this about a book in a long time but I really wish I don’t finish reading this soon.

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In Between

To Pamuk & the window by my Desk

I finished reading Captain Pantoja today. What a nasty little delight the book is. As I hurried through the last few pages, I kept cursing and rereading because I didn’t want to miss what I seemed to have missed throughout the beginning of the novel. The little bits of information that he wrapped in between dialogues. Like bacon wrapped sausages. I will return to the book soon when I have recovered and have something honest to say about it. Now, I’m still trying to make sense of the narrative burst that Llosa has left me with.

I have now made my jump to Orhan Pamuk. The Museum of Innocence. It took me sometime to actually start reading the book because soon after I picked it up, I started smelling the pages like a woman possessed. It smelled of book, dust, naphthalene balls, and of having fraternized with other books. Strangely, I am beginning to associate the smell of dusty old books with the smell of memory. I remember the smell. Like it is in my head all the time and the whiff of dust just goes and rattles the smell. Just to tell you how much I love the book already, once I started reading it, I didn’t stop, not even to smell the pages. I am through with the first 5 pages, looks like I may fall in love with Pamuk now. Or maybe it’s too soon to tell.

I had to take Pantoja to the lab to finish with him. It had begun to get noisy in the department. When I returned to my place for lunch, the mad child and I talked for sometime and then, as I was preparing to leave with Pamuk, I decided to stay. I shifted my chair, turned it towards the wall so now on my right, the window opens to my face. There’s noise inside but it is easier to ignore it. Either it’s because Pamuk’s sex descriptions are that good or the slow, drilling machine sound outside is soothing enough to drown out the melodrama inside. Either ways I am not complaining.

Now and then, that bird I keep listening to when I am reading, chirps. It is how I will remember afternoons here. It is how I remember Finding Fanny.

To get back to my new sitting position, I love it. My day just got better. I was in a rut all morning because my faith in humanity had died last night, following a terrible argument with my engineer cousin who stated that rapes are like small cuts that need to be ignored to be able to focus on priorities. When I told this to my sister she said that this cousin and everybody else are on their ‘journeys’ and that I cannot change it. I cannot decide which conversation left me more bruised.

But Pamuk and my window have managed to suck me out of these journeys. I badly want to get back to my book now and to the birds outside my window.

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In Between

Over Cups of Ginger Tea and Brandy

There is an odd gratification in the desire to go back to somebody’s past, not yours, to see how they laughed, lived and loved. The first few conversations leave you high and dry. You sit huddled at a table in front of them, your hands cupping your chin, listening with rapt attention to stories, to the way the details on their face change to match the stories being told, to moments they felt loved and hated, to the way they narrate moments of passion and boredom like they are one and the same.

Now they laugh and you wonder if the smile always was a happy curve like that. Now they sigh and you wonder if it always sounded like a cat meowing its way into your bed spread to curl up next to you. There are pauses that you fill with images of what you think they looked like back then, and the questions you ask imitate this curiosity.

‘When was this’ ‘How old were you’ ‘Where did you live’ as means of establishing a timeline and a younger face inside the timeline; a happier time? You don’t know and neither do they.

You look for signs of tiredness on their face, of having lived those stories, of reliving them now in accurate narrations and descriptions. Thankfully they are lovers of details, just like you are so you don’t have to prod for more. They are generous with their stories and you sit with your arms wide open trying to absorb everything you can.

Some days, you feel wiser because of their stories. Some other days you wish you were a part of their stories and imagine what you would be like at another time, sitting at the same table, the same waiters bringing you stronger ginger tea. You imagine these bits in black and white, they are ardently imagined but seem way more real than surrounding images – of color and traffic, of blue, green and white.

One round of questions and two rounds of brandy later, there is measured laughter. You don’t want to scare them away with all the loudness so you pace down and round back up again. More questions, more clarifications, more stories. Pause. An anecdote now and a funny story later, you are running after them trying to catch up to how they’ve changed. They draw you a canvas and you jump in, they make you a pensieve and you are sucked in.

You walk with them and revisit old shapes of familiar cities, old bookshops that are no longer there and old spaces that are written about in blogs you claim you accidentally found. You stumble upon a word and you try to arrange your life like theirs, you stumble upon a detail now and you aspire to make the same mistakes they made so at the same table tomorrow, you will have a story to tell.

Soon, their voice takes over your mind, walking you through your life. A still image in black and white keeps coming back and you hold onto it strongly. It’s you and them, sitting at the same table, a tablecloth today, and a pot of ginger tea, two cups and more conversation.

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In Between

Over and out

It is difficult to admit to yourself when you fall out of love. There aren’t signs nor symbols to tell you when you do, unlike when you are in love where every tear drop is out of feeling lucky and blessed, every smile is a play of memory and desire and every morning is a prayer. Here on the other side, there is a void now which is slowly beginning to fill with everything you don’t say to each other. A pause that appears more than once in a conversation; it twitches and you want nothing more than to wrap it up and put it in your pocket; to let it out only when it is healthier and is sure to inspire thoughtfulness and shared smiles.

It takes longer to dress up now, you pick clothes you don’t find interesting. When you turn back at your door and see the light and warmth in the curtains and the slow, rhythmic rising of fumes from incense sticks, you sigh and hang on to the hope of another Sunday, when all of this will be yours to touch and feel.

You go to familiar places, hoping it will rekindle forgotten desires, now abandoned in limbos – neither here nor there. The walk from the parking lot to the escalator is the hope for a good day. Then you say something, he says something else. Your face freezes in an expression you know he detests but it’s too late to think of what he detests and loves. Or perhaps you don’t care. Within a minute, the promise of a good day goes grinning by, and all you can do is stand there and wait to finish your thought, the fight.

A warped sense of pity and gratitude beckons you to walk along with him and force conversations on him, like squeezing an empty tube for that last remaining blob of toothpaste. But all you get is a set of grunts to match your ridiculous questions. You are only checking to see if the day still has potential, and then in that little distance between discomfort and accusation, you will know.

As you stand in silence on the escalator, you wonder if it always took you so long to get to the fourth floor. It seems as though another floor has been added because it really is taking you longer than usual to get there. Ringing echoes of laughter and memories of stories that you once inflicted on this escalator, this mall whisper behind you as you finally reach that dreaded fourth floor. And then a faint feeling of loveless coma whacks your face and you are left wondering if you just fell out of love.

Two pairs of hands are lifelessly sprawled on the table – they look yellow and tired. Every movement the hand makes is a battle between a desire to end the bickering, yet to not want to reach out and grasp his hand. The food arrives and you feel relief raining all over your insides. Hours later you are fighting the urge to push his weight off your chest while your face appears to be as calm as the moon. Every touch is a memory that your uncle left burnt on your thighs, hips and breasts. You go through with it and wait for it to end. It ends and you go home.

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In Between

Thiruvananthapuram

Traveling with the family has always been a messy affair for me. Dad has unhindered access to me and what I wear and what I eat and how I live; the comments ensue, the match begins. But this happens only now, although oddly enough it seems like there’s a history that’s older than me when I think of all the disagreements we have had. Our travel sprees were a lot different when I was younger. And so were the disagreements.

Back then, I must have been crouching in the back seat, playing referee to the two voices in my head – one his, one mine; making them disagree. In short, waiting to grow up so I didn’t have to travel with them to temples and other violent places children should never be taken to. 

Traveling all of South India with a joint family in a matador will therefore only remain a blur that I accidentally found while groping in the dark, looking for something else. Somebody mentions a beach, a temple or a hotel and I find myself donning my best cat behavior trying to locate the blur in my memory, now whizzing like a housefly to be caught, an answer to be found, a page to be filled up.

We covered the temple cities in less than 4 days, stopping very briefly at Trivandrum, which until last year I firmly believed I had never seen. Last November, I discovered the blur in my memory that was Trivandrum and everything did not come rushing back as I had hoped it would. It took me a while to realise that I was seeing 2 versions of a city. One of which is imposed on you by temple going freak shows in the family who turn a blind eye to everything else the city offers. The other is when you catch a passing glimpse of yourself, in a moving vehicle, a showroom, a granite wall, and you smile in whispers and curse your family, when you are out exploring the city all by yourself.

I saw myself, away from home, away from temple people, away from the prying eyes of my father, wearing shorts, carrying nothing but a little bag and waiting to be lost. I walked around the hotel, smiled at all the slopes, coconut trees and little brick homes that gave me all kinds of Mangalore flashbacks. I took random turns, and found out that it is not easy to get lost in this city. Either that or I was too scared to go all the way out and be lost. 

At the turn of every corner, I smelled fish curry and coconut oil, a smell that I shamelessly associate Trivandrum with even today. The city made me see and feed the small foodie I was beginning to take note of in me. It outperformed the beach person that I was throughout my life.

I gorged on idiyappams and Kerala chicken curry in Statue hotel, downed jars of Pankaj Island Ice Tea, scooped chemmen fry with mounds of red rice and fish curry at Mubarak, judged soggy bits of meen pollichathu and forced its taste to match with the taste I thought it ought to have had, wolfed down puttu and prawn curry at Black pepper, all the while trying hard to drown the voices and faces of my part mallu-part mangy mother and her relatives. I could hear them echo loudly behind me. ‘Ti amgel vari khaoche’ – ‘She eats like us’.

Trivandrum’s streets are a marvel in themselves. An India coffee house, that looks like the leaning tower of pisa parked hazily around buses and bikes comes zooming back when I try to retrace my tour around the city. The buses looked easy to climb into unlike the whistling, red ones in Bangalore that are hostile bloody dynamites. At the far end of the street that I call Trivandrum is a little place that serves Biryani chaya – butter beer if I may. At the risk of getting kicked, I am going to say, drink it to know it. 

So when I go to Trivandrum, it is also to devour the best rice and kerala fish curry in the name of all that is fancy at Hotel Villa Maya, which, true to its name stands tall and quiet; unknowing of the city bustling all around it. I am no food expert but the food there is both sleep-inducing and exploding with taste.

This is how I remember Trivandrum, in its streets and food, in its friendly looking buses and pankaj island ice tea, but surprisingly very little in its beaches. However, nothing screams more Trivandrum than that familiar smell of fish curry and coconut oil when I check into its hotel. 

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In Between

Nothing here

I gruelingly remember my undergraduate years at Jain College. Blow after blow, bully after bully, fight after fight.  A lot of my time was invested in either escaping said bullies or trying to confront them in my head, making speeches. I made terrible friends, wasted all my time in a college that was as aimless as its students. I didn’t know what I wanted from my career. Too much time was spent worrying about potential love failure. Too much more time was wasted in romance that didn’t blossom when it had to.

Being in love can be very exhausting. At 16, the exhaustion seemed weightless.  Also, I was too young to notice that I was exhausted. All my decisions were based on him.  Where we would eat, where we would go for the vacation, where we would make out next, which movie to watch, what lies should I tell at home, what excuses aren’t already taken. Not far behind was also the lurking, overwhelming sense of whether or not all of this was worth it.

I hate to admit, but maybe falling in love at 16 wasn’t really an achievement as I hoped it would be. I must be the bigger person here and also say that mother was probably right. I can never be so sure about this because back then, this wasn’t a house that encouraged a career in the humanities. Marriage proposals from men two decades older than me were considered and pursued with much enthusiasm just because I was anyway a B.A English student.

But my misdirected rage against them was no excuse for having exploited 3 prime years of my life, chasing nothing, but they didn’t seem like nothings then. They were what caused me dark circles – prolonged wait and hope for calls that never came, for text messages that were never returned, for love that remained unrequited long after I was his, and he, mine.

I don’t know how we’ve made it this far; maybe because for a good seven years of my life I gave it all of myself.  With every promise, every wound, every funny story, every fight, every touch. I did write now and then but they were all a bunch of things I could never tell him out loud. Like how much I hurt because of the sudden intense moments of love I often felt.

It doesn’t hurt now because the pain is all too familiar. The love remains and so do struggles of memory and hurt and fear.  I pass by that college every day on my way to work. On bad days, I cringe when I pass by those demon gates, on better days I laugh and feel secretly relieved about the disconnection I have managed with the college and its people.

It’s not as if I have outgrown the girl I was behind those gates. I still run after love in more or less the same ways. Except that my capacity for exhaustion seems to have plummeted down to obscene levels.

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F – Fudge

Choultries are depressing in the evenings. Disorderly empty chairs, echoes of laughing relatives bouncing off lazy white walls, broken flowers; water spilled here and there from water fights between running cousins, goodbyes and wishes hanging in the air, the feeling that the last few remaining people on the earth are pulling away, going far away from you.

It just screams emptiness, like my Sunday evenings back when I was in school. Dad watching the news; me, sprawled on the living room floor doing homework and the only ritual I most enjoyed throughout my school – Packing my bag, arranging books according to size, emptying my pencil pouch, cleaning it and then putting everything back again. It was how I coped with having to welcome Monday. I remember the sinking feeling of familiarity and consistent family time that exploded every Sunday.The news, its ads, the songs, the anchor’s dead voice, mom’s walking in and out of the hall bringing food for dad. When I think of it now, it brings an onslaught of tired whys and hows followed by 2 never mores.

It felt like I was living somebody else’s Sunday evening, on borrowed time, in borrowed space. It was not mine, it could never be mine unless I was older enough to do what I wanted to with my Sundays.

I’m old enough today. But there’s always a but.

When I am getting dressed to see you, a vast nothingness of forgotten Sundays opens up and I look at it with an almost bored desire to not be there but still be there. Sometimes, I don’t want you as much as I want you. Some other times, I think of what it would be like to have a whole Sunday for myself, without having to share it with anyone and I smile. Sometimes, I think of having too many Sundays for myself and the promise of solitude thrills me just as much as it scares me. Eventually, the fear of missing you and wanting what I could have had, but can’t now is what holds me back.

Every time, I turn cold, the memory of your laugh makes me warm. The 101 names you have given me on account of various celebratory accidents, the slowness in your movements when you sleep, the rare outbursts of affection that you show me only in my imagination, the languages you have invented and the songs you sing, the words you distort and change to fit your mouth, the way you laugh when you see people fall, the way you won’t stop laughing when I fall; your face and its creases, your hand and its raw warmth, the tightness in your chest and your hugs, the way you caress my head when I weep in your arms.

These are only some of the things that hold me back from going ahead and having at all the Sundays myself. What brings cold logic to the warm, faint beating in my heart and the voice of your laugh is the Choultry; its ugly dullness. It’s how I will be if I am with you.