Epipoofy

One December morning in Goa, I sat in a shack overlooking the beach – within reach of all things comfortable – hot water with ginger lemon & honey, a pack of ice burst, the book I was reading (Machado’s In the Dream House), kindle bookmarked to Miranda July’s short story called The Man on the Stairs (a woman sleeping next to her partner wakes up to sense a man walking up the stairs, towards the bedroom – he takes forever to arrive and she waits for him, often almost going back to sleep but everytime he shifts his weight, she wakes up again), a notebook, sunglasses.

Two shirtless white men are playing frisbee yet the only other nakeder thing on the beach is a lone tree bending awkwardly to its knees – it changes posture every now and then – depending on who it is imitating. Presently, it is bent to catch a frisbee that no one throws at it.

There are women in white bikinis who don’t rush into the water like I had just a few hours ago, in a yellow bikini that had made me feel small, unattractive, pleased. The women I am watching from behind the safe, cool shadows of my sunglasses – are, despite their composure (they don’t rush out of the water either) pulling me furiously into their bodies and I arrive at a wetness in a sudden poof that I cannot recognise.

It hadn’t taken more than a gentle squeeze of one of the thighs to produce. It was unfamiliar but welcome. I felt grateful to not have had to imagine anything more because everything I would ever want was there in that moment. I figured I enjoy watching women so much, it didn’t matter that there were two Hindi-speaking men at the next table who I wanted to beat up with their sunglasses because they were imagining perhaps the same things that I was.

After years of vaguely saying bi-things, I had arrived at an epiphany – an epipoofy. It was easy, like vanilla ice cream.

 

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.

B – Bangalore

Most of my childhood was spent travelling between cities- big and small, dusty and clean, with and without AC restaurants, with and without Hotel Kamat, and all in white ambassador cars, those guilt and nausea producing automobiles – from Gulbarga to Mangalore to Belgaum. In all that time, Bangalore was quite the strange city for me. Its narrative among faltering cousins always included descriptions of imported cars, never to be seen elsewhere in the country. Buildings so tall, ‘olle america tara ide’. Roads so wide, that you won’t even notice the time it takes to get to places. But I was a beach person at heart (still am) and that’s why nothing anybody ever said made a difference to me. I was a Mangalore girl through and through and the fact that Bangalore has no beaches made me happy because it couldn’t compete with Mangalore.

My first visit to Bangalore confirmed the America connection because dad took us to Kemp Fort. That and the fact that they had ‘custard caramel’ in the hotel that we stayed in – Sanman Deluxe. The only other restaurant I knew that served custard caramel was a modest ‘New Khyber’ in Belgaum.

I grew lesser and lesser curious about the other part of the city which always remained a mystery to me. It didn’t really matter to me because I didn’t want to know what lay beyond the white washed walls of the Shiva temple next to Kemp fort or where the road from Sapna Book house went to. I didn’t want to know if a better America lived there and if it did what they ate. The only places I can recollect having been familiar with are Fishland and Sapna at Majestic because dad took us there every evening that we were in the city. I remember having walked on the road that goes down from Fishland, eating corn, and competing with my sister to show her that I was not shorter than her.

The remainder of the time was spent in Sanman deluxe where my sister and I would continue our struggle to have quiet fights, away from mother’s ears. We fought over books so my mother bought two of everything. We had Two Snow white and the seven dwarves, two Sleeping beauties and two Secret sevens. I flinch with regret when I think of those painful twos now. Stupid bitch wanted everything that I bought. That’s all of the Bangalore that remained with me when I was away from the city. Eight years into living in Bangalore and I still hadn’t discovered the city and its food, its lanes and its theatres.

And then, the ninth year I fell in love with a boy. That’s when I slowly started to notice the city. Bangalore is a lovely city to watch from the back seat of a boyfriend’s bike. Sometimes he shrugged with indifference when I asked him how he remembered lanes, sometimes he would frown at my naivety, and some other times he would laugh menacingly at my questions. Bastard doubled up with laughter and almost fell off his bike near Lalbagh when I asked him why we had been passing through the same Lalbagh for over 15 minutes. I didn’t know there was more than one entrance to Lalbagh.

It would be too haughty of me to say that I discovered the city then, on the back of a pulsar. Only a small fraction of my interest about the city was slowly beginning to peek around this time. Discovery was far away, still waiting for me in the lanes of Ulsoor and Richmond road and Kammanahalli and Banaswadi.

I must have been too much in love with him to notice when the big, flashy sari shops from above Majestic’s Mantap became small clusters of ‘Hotel Lucky inn’ and ‘Hotel Quickly’ on Cottonpet main road. I was amazed at the smart turns he took to avoid maniac cows around the corners of his house.

I have always been fascinated with driving/riding one’s way through the city and he seemed to know it really well. I only had to give him a landmark and he would take me there. I was bowled over by his riding in and out of any lanes that the city just threw on unsuspecting onlookers like myself.

It was a delight to discover the street food lanes by the cramped and moving streets of Chikpet. Here I found Papdi- that delightful yellow crunchiness with its green chilli companion – so subtle, you won’t know when your tongue is on fire. I feel indebted to the boyfriend’s mother for introducing me to Papdi.

Soon I was moving to different bikes and their backseats and different parts of the city and their histories. The old antique-y homes on Cockburn road and Shivajinagar. The shape shifting houses around cantonment, the office/temple/go-down homes near Ulsoor. I hate to exaggerate but my bond with the city is more romantic than much else. So much of it was uncovered in the backseats of bikes. And the conversations about the city that followed were no less romantic.

I started riding 3 weeks ago and it is with deep sorrow that I have to report that no amount of discovering/uncovering the damn city happens when you are riding your own bloody vehicle. People will honk mercilessly like their fucking life depends on it if you so much as slow down to look for parking. For all its romance, the city people are mean to L boards. I know this – I honked exasperatedly at three L board vehicles today.

Slowly, my curiosity to learn more about the city is growing. It was after a lifetime of multiplexes that I discovered the joy of watching Tamil movies in Lavanya theatre, which for a long time I had only looked at disapprovingly from outside. The boyfriend hated single screens – something about bugs under the seat and the pressure of having to protect the girlfriend and all.  Many moons later, I did go to Lavanya and ended up having fun. No bugs. Now I almost feel left out in multiplexes if nobody whistles when the hero makes his entry onscreen. It smells nice but feels empty in multiplexes.

Eating is yet another romance that I relate the city with. Once upon a boyfriend time, I used to be a sucker for Chinese food. I took my boyfriend to the newly opened Chung Wah Opus in Jayanagar and he loved it so much that he decided to eat there twice a week, making me hate Chinese food forever.

I started discovering taste and food around the time I fell in love with Lavanya, which isn’t too long ago. I tasted sushi for the first time – loved it. My taste buds started craving for seafood kimbabs every other week, I found out that I am attracted to crab in more ways than one and belted it at ‘Mangalore Pearl’ and ‘Carnival de Goa’, I fell in love multiple times with Hye Kum Gang and Benjarong and then Republic of noodles happened, that delicious,delicious bitch.

I don’t learn more about this city with every passing day because most of the time I don’t even notice the streets I am walking on. But suddenly something goes boink in my head and I have all these questions. It happens over time, getting to know this city and others. It’s slow but I don’t have anywhere else to be for now so I’ll take my time. On my two wheeler.