For the love of Keret-IV

Aishwarya Rai in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam is no longer weeping for Salman Khan. Ajay Devgan is playing Salman’s role. The villain- her father, stands arms folded between Ash-Ajay. Someone forces him to muster the decency to leave them alone for final goodbyes and he does. Ash collapses into Ajay’s chest. Then she cries, he cries (although I can’t see his face) and over his strong, broad shoulders, I see her eyelashes, heavy and wet with tears.

***

I am in a Thai film. I am in a hurry to get cake for my mother. Someone drops me off at a market where I am suddenly adopted by the people living there as one of their own. The architecture of the building is funny and scary, like strange buildings in new cities are. The entire building is zigzag, like our parking spaces in malls.

A tall woman with shiny black hair and swan’s neck is my new mother. My new mother gathers me in her arms but we are quickly separated by something. There is chaos, the enemies are coming and just the word is enough to send everyone running. I am everywhere and here at the same time but deeply, miserably aware that my new mother isn’t with me. I can suddenly understand why babies need their mothers so much, why I need mine, what all the deal with mother’s love is about. I pine for her, gathering my heart in my hands and running and looking for her in the chaos. I’ve lost her.

***

My year-old nephew is playing in my arms. We are at a big, bright house by the beach. Everyone is here, my whole family. And even as I am with them, I can’t fight the all too familiar feeling of having/needing to be somewhere else. I curse myself. Why am I such a terrible planner? Why do I make promises I know I cannot keep? There’s a furious wind and I remember with great desolation, my alone and small bike that I’ve parked at college, right in front of the beach (How to move here permanently?)

I tell Amma I have to go. She is mad.

***

For the love of Keret

short short nothings II

After the zoom meeting, we sat in the board room to go over it. Insi, who had missed the meeting was next to me and Sharan, next to her. We were filling her in on what she had missed and how everyone had looked (Simba’s hair, Fiona’s children who kept peeking in and giggling, Nat’s wedding)

Mia was sitting at the back and I felt ecstatic that for once, her plans hadn’t worked. She was quick to strategise seating arrangements for herself so she wouldn’t not be the centre of conversation but I couldn’t tell why she’d missed this one. How was it possible that Sharan was sitting here, and Mia wasn’t?

Sharan told Insi that Simba was not doing so well in the pandemic. His university was unstable and he had been looking at other options. I went a step further and confirmed that he had told us that he had been fired. Sharan looked disturbed. Without betraying any kindness in his eyes, he shook his head and told me “I’m sorry, but I don’t think this bit of news is yours to tell. It’s Simba’s”

I felt my head reeling. I looked around to see if Mia had heard and watched me being shoved into my place. She was engaged in a lively chat with others, and no one seemed to be paying any attention to what had just happened. Insi herself was a blur between Sharan and me. It didn’t matter what she thought.  But I loudly agreed with Sharan. “Yes yes, you are absolutely right. It’s not my news to share. I’m so sorry”

Sharan continued talking to Insi and I couldn’t hear anything he said. I was distracted by how easily he had made his discomfort known and how despite being told off, I wasn’t feeling resentful towards him. I felt a mad urge to undo what I had done, to impress him somehow before the day was over so he wouldn’t have to carry his bad opinion of me into the next day and forever after that. 

I wished I had kept quiet. It’s so charming to watch women not as desperate as I am, those who firmly seem to know what to say when. I wished I had that fierce cross-legged independence. Next time, I told myself.

Mia was laughing.

For the love of Keret

Short short nothings.

I told Amita that at the training programme last week, they made us stand in a circle, remove our shoes (and socks) and step into the shoes of those standing next to us. This was to teach us what it’s like to literally stand in someone else’s shoes. Amita slapped her forehead. When the session was over, I told her, I felt bad for the organisers. They had even the most empathetic person in the room now permanently repulsed to the idea of placing oneself in someone else’s shoes, even metaphorically.  

Her eyes glowed with terror when I told her how when I had put my feet into the very big shoes of the man next to me, there was a squelching sound and the wet horror of what I assumed was sweat which swallowed all of my five toes. She pulled the slap down to her eyes and then wiped the karma all over her face.

I didn’t tell her about Suman from Chemistry who had straight up refused to stand in my shoes. (‘Uh uh – no, not happening’)

Amita didn’t have to sit through the training because her migraine had arrived that morning and had shown no sign of retreat. Pregnant with relief, she sighed inaudibly but I caught it when her exhaling back became suddenly aware and straightened itself audibly.

We were in the canteen. My green tea was cold and her badam milk was covered with cream. She pinched it with her index and thumb finger and put it in her mouth. 

Sometimes I wish

Sometimes I wish I had no ambition

So that when I get back home at 8 one evening

and my mother asks me why I’m not married yet

I can tell her –

Tomorrow I will marry.

 

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t someone who likes spending time alone

so that when my father pulls me out of solitude and

demands to know when I will marry

I can tell him

Tomorrow I will marry

 

Sometimes I wish I was already married

So when I come home at 4 in the noon

my husband sighs and says

I love you

-I can say: I love you too

and when he says where is my chai

I can say —

Fuck you bro

 

Sometimes I wish I didn’t like reading and writing

because somewhere

it is costing my mother a lot

to see me alone

having no idea that this is the happiest I have been

and the happiest that I will ever be.

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In that small room with purple walls

In that small room with purple walls

In that small room with purple walls

You sat on the bed, giggling like water in a moving jug.

When I tried to touch you, you slapped my hands away and giggled some more.

 

In the bathroom, my water was ready –

The door locked – the lights, dim.

You banged on the door with a thousand fists and twelve fingers-

I don’t remember opening the door –

But you ran in – all thousand fists and twelve fingers and fell into the tub, into my water.

When the water jumped up and fell down — one-two-three of my eyelashes drowned in it too.

In that small room with purple walls.

Featured Image Credits: iStock

Alive

always always

there is that fleeting moment

when you are writing;

when you suddenly become aware

of time,

and how much you didn’t listen to its ticking before –

such an irony no?

that it is in these moments when we feel no time

we come out alive, like dead people out of coffins.

Fair Night

There is a man at the fair who wears thick wooden hoops on his thin, dark arm. He stands inside and will only come to you if you pay him 10 rupees for 5 hoops. And then he goes and stands back in the corner again. The first two buttons on his loose, white shirt are always undone. I put my arm over the railing and wonder if he is watching. I wonder if he isn’t already tired from watching countless tiny girls making terrible aims at dolls, toy cars and teddy bears. I aim for the doll in the nice blue dress with the sparkly wings. I miss all three times. And then I aim for the packet of Parle G biscuits which I get. I am frowning and pa is now pulling me by the arm to take me over to where ma is standing with my little sister. She has made my sister try all of the three frocks which now lie crumpled and decided on the dirty chair. I look at her tired face and want to hit her. Ma has picked the same three frocks for me. Whatever I get, my little sister gets. That’s how it has always been.

Pa says that he doesn’t want to eat anything and ma says that we can always go back home and she will make something for us. Pa says no to that although I know he wants to eat karimeen sambar again. I wish we don’t. I want to eat Chinese but before I can say anything, Pa has spotted a Dosa point that will give you 33 different dosas and before I know it, I am being pulled into the tiny room with the four tables squeezed next to each other. It smells odd here – old and chipped walls, smelly table top and a tall, steel glass that I push away. Ma orders 4 masalas. I don’t want to eat it but I believe I am old enough to know that in this battle, mothers always win. I tear big pieces of the Dosa and dump it in the space between the table and the wall. I make sure that no one notices, especially the waiters.

On the way back home in our green Omni, I look at my little sister who is fast asleep. Her flabby cheeks are dancing sideways and I want to tear them off. She looks peaceful in her sleep and this annoys me very much. The road looks empty and noiseless. The street lights fall in neat box-like patterns on my lap and I play a game. I must poke in between all the yellow spaces that form and must hurry before the next one comes. Till we get home, I play this game. I miss just the one time.

In bed I cannot sleep so I keep shifting positions until I find one that allows me to look at the moon. The only thing that disturbs me is pa’s loud yawning. He is sitting in the hall watching TV. Every now and then, his mouth makes a loud quadrilateral and yawns terribly. And since then, I cover myself up fiercely whenever I hear a male yawn.