Of finding masumiyat in Istanbul


I began reading The Museum of Innocence in 2011. That is the year it was gifted to me by my faculty in my j-school to go with my Certificate of Distinction for “Excellence in Magazine Writing”. I was amused. Mostly because I did not expect such a category of award existed while I was studying and learning journalism (although magazine writing was one of my chosen electives in the second semester). And the other reason for my amusement was to realise that I was probably the only student who got a fictional book as a gift. Every other awardee was given a non fiction book that narrated stories from a significant historical period or even the do’s and don’ts of journalism and such like.

As I stood proud of my achievement and holding the heavy book (the edition I own is over 750 pages long), I read the name aloud for the first time. Orhan Pamuk. I had never heard of him before. The cover of the book depicted a fun family/friend outing in a vintage car. The size of the book did not worry me as much as the thought that this just might be yet another historical narrative of a lost empire, civilization or culture. I was wrong. Or maybe not? I am yet to figure out. I have been reading this novel since the day I got it. Since 2001.

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My copy of the book which has been with me since 2001. The novel was published in 2008.

When I say I have been reading it since then, I don’t mean I read a paragraph or a chapter every day. But I have been cautious of taking my own sweet time to read, learn, absorb and live the words weaved by Mr. Pamuk. Frankly, I have never read anything else by him (I bought My Name is Red a couple of years ago only to recommend it to my cousin even before beginning to read it; she was in need of exploring a new author at that time and I figured I, at least, had the comfort of The Museum).

So in the year 2011, Pamuk officially entered my life. My dear friend Raghuram later told me several stories about Turkey, Istanbul and the personal and literary life of the author. Raghu had already devoured some of Pamuk’s writings, Snow being one of them, and was constantly pushing me to finish The Museum. He often expressed jealousy for not owning the book himself and wanted to hear my thoughts about the book before he purchased a copy of his own. He also, often, scolded me for taking so long to read a novel critiquing my reading abilities and taunting my so-called desire for literature and arts.

I still don’t know why I have taken so long to read this book. It has surely nothing to do with the fact that it is uninteresting in any way. It also has nothing to do with the fact that Pamuk’s literary reputation has been affected, albeit slightly, with accusations of plagiarism. Every word. Every scene. Every plot of this text is so rich that when I reach an interesting point in the novel, I shut it and move it aside. When I shared this with Raghu, he simply used to guffaw.

The dedication of this book reads To Rüya. Raghu later told me that Rüya, in fact, was Pamuk’s daughter’s name and the word means “dream” in Turkish. He also taught me how important it is to read the dedication page of every book that one reads as it is a valuable insight into the persona of the writer. Again, it was Raghu who educated me about Pamuk’s well-publicised relationship with Indian authoress Kiran Desai. Raghu was full of such fascinating literary gossips and mesmerising tales (quite resembling Pamuk’s writing, now when I think about it). Shortly after narrating these stories, Raghu passed away in 2012. And thus began my long hiatus from The Museum and Pamuk.

In the last 4 years, I have made some progress with the book, although I have been even slower than before as reading it cause a surge of emotions in me. Nevertheless, I continue to enjoy the story and how Kemal and Füzun’s relationship develop in the course of the narrative. Since hearing about Istanbul from Raghu and now having read about the social transformations in the city in The Museum, I have always had a fascination to visit the city some day. I have had countless dreams about a city I have never visited, which is surreal even for a dreamy person like me! And I have had cravings to go back to Istanbul: a place I have never visited even once, in the first place.

Today, this dream (or reality) has come true. The universe conspired in a crafty way, I must say. My work, my activism and my passion for what I do in my personal and professional life has landed me in Istanbul to attend a 7-day long forum. While I am excited about what is to begin soon, I am elated to land in a city I have had a supernatural connection with. And this connection began exactly a few hours into landing in Istanbul: I finally visited the Museum Of Innocence or Masumiyet Müzesi. Yes, an actual museum of innocence that Pamuk created in conjunction with his eponymous novel.

The museum and the novel were created in tandem, centered on the stories of two Istanbul families. On 17 May 2014, the museum was announced as the Winner of the 2014 European Museum of the Year Award.

The narrative and the museum offer a glimpse into upper-class Istanbul life from the 1970s to the early 2000s. The novel details the story of Kemal, a wealthy Istanbulite who falls in love with his poorer cousin, and the museum displays the artifacts of their love story. According to the website, the museum presents what the novel’s characters “used, wore, heard, saw, collected and dreamed of, all meticulously arranged in boxes and display cabinets.”

The collection, which includes more than a thousand objects, is housed in a 19th-century house on the corner of Çukurcuma Sk and Dalgiç Sk.

(source here)

You get a free entry into the museum upon showing a page from the novel where they stamp your entry in the shape of one of Füzun's earrings

Showing this page from the novel gets a free invite into the museum. The stamp resembles the shape of one of Füzun’s earrings.

Since I have still not read the novel entirely, as mentioned earlier, I was careful not to ruin the experience by checking objects in display from chapters I hadn’t reached reading yet. Almost each of the 83 chapters from the novel are displayed in a box with an audio guide narrating sections from the novel in Pamuk’s voice as well as telling the story of how a particular chapter or plot was conceived. You miss the line between fact and fiction as you view the countless hairpins that Kemal has carefully preserved of Füzun’s. The surrealism of it all comes alive as you hear the sound of a boat paving its way on The Bosphorus as a voice narrates excerpts from the novel about Kemal’s anguish.

I clicked several images while I was there but unfortunately they all got deleted owing to some error on my mobile phone. But I am not upset about it at all. The images are imprinted in my mind and I know this is an unforgettable experience. As I write this blog, an array of emotions and feelings are rushing through my veins. The words. The objects. The characters. The ambience. The floor. The voice. The recreation of my imagination as I devoured this novel diligently since 2001. And the magic of a love story that I am now too afraid to finish reading, lest the joy be over. I end with a quote from the last chapter of the novel (which, now, I have partly read out of curiosity): The Museum of Innocence will be forever open to lovers who can’t find another place to kiss in Istanbul. 

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Orgasmic blush


Shopping for groceries
with someone you love
Smelling the froth of
freshly brewed café au lait
Watching a couple embracing
in the misty fog
Reading the lines of a book
that was recommended by a lover
Rereading your lover’s old
letter and poems
Being kissed by the sun on a
particularly cold morning
Discovering a crumpled note in an old, discarded,
unwashed pair of jeans
Striking off a pending task
from your to-do list
Burning the mouth while eating
coz it just tastes so darn good!
Catching up on a conversation with an old friend
just from where we last left
Recalling the lyrics of an old song that had
gotten lost in the memory lanes
Seeing your mother smile
as you make a fresh, new cooking mistake
Looking at your reflection on the mirror
as you apply cherry red lipstick

Photography by Aimee NG

Photography by Aimee NG

Of hunting and devouring erotica


When I was working on finalizing my dissertation topic during my Masters, I was quite apprehensive about what I would choose. I knew that the topic I was about to choose would eventually be something that I would be voluntarily giving two years of my life to. It had to be exciting, interesting, and maybe even controversial to keep me glued and engaged. Sex was an obvious answer that fulfilled all these criteria. And since I had graduated specializing in literature in English, erotic literature emerged as an option I was more than happy to pursue.

While I knew that it is contemporary erotica that I wanted to focus on, the reason for stressing on writing that was recent was to test how much I could relate to the contextual realities. It is only after I finalized my area of research that I began hunting for writings around sex, preferably fictional writings, in English language emerging from South Asian countries. Of course, it was much more difficult than I had imagined. This wasn’t romance or tragedy or even tragicomedy. This was erotica coming from a land that looked at sex as a tabooed, sinful and hushed subject. Of course, this is also the land that gave us the ‘Kama Sutra’ and the Khajuraho temples. It is this hypocrisy in allowing some and dismissing other manifestations of the erotic that I sought to address through my research. And my first hurdle began in looking for the texts.

A visit to the bookstore resulted in judgmental looks, sniffed remarks and, eventually, ‘Fifty Shades…’. Some bookstores proudly offered me newer translations and versions of ‘Kama Sutra’ again, while some others simply refused to entertain my preposterous demand. A simple Google search came to my rescue. I discovered Tranquebar Press whose four volumes of erotica had emerged in recent years*. Each of these anthologies consisted of fictional pieces penned by writers from South Asia. I was relieved as well as surprised at its easy presence and access on the web but complete ignorance among bookstores (I am talking about two years ago, maybe things have changed now). I ordered all four volumes online and I was more than happy to devour them for the (ostensible) purpose of conducting research. While the genre of erotica is burdened by several challenges — not being seen as ‘literary’ enough, charged of being cheap, trashy and pornographic (the thin line between what gets constructed as erotic and acceptable, and, pornographic and dismissive remains a crucial question to explore), accused of objectifying its characters, especially women—the books that I read as part of my thesis writing were both brave exceptions and happy clichés.

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While conducting my research, I divided these stories on the basis of themes. But the one theme and aspect that I had a keen eye for was that of sexual fantasies and the kinds of sexual fantasies that these fictional worlds not only allowed but also gratified in a justified manner. Interestingly enough, ‘Blue’, The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories from Sri Lanka, which doesn’t claim to be heterosexual (and neither is), has scope for sexual experimentation and fantasies only in those stories that move out of hetero normativity. Marti’s ‘Room 1716’ is the story that describes lesbian fantasies of the protagonist, while also incorporating the use of a vibrator (a sex toy) to enhance the sexual experience—a privilege otherwise not given to other heterosexual couples in this anthology. Again, it is in ‘Me and Ms J’, a story about lesbian desire, where the protagonist fantasies a sexual relationship with her teacher. Sexual fidelity takes a hike in Shehan Karunatilaka’s Veysee which is a story about a married man who seeks sexual pleasure with a sex worker. There isn’t much light thrown as to why he seeks sex outside marriage but the story does present a view of Sri Lankan society and its perception around sex. The country is represented as one where sex is available ‘freely’ only if you possess good looks, good money and power. Of course, sexual fantasies are not limited to the realm of the man. In ‘Undercover’, Ameena Hussein narrates the story of a married woman trapped in a physically and mentally unsatisfying marriage. This story brings in the element of sex as an avenue of escape when coupled with exploring sexual desire outside marriage.

In ‘Blue’, sexual fantasy is linked to either homosexuality or tasting the forbidden (in the case of ‘Undercover’ and ‘Veysee’). ‘Close, Too Close’ (The Tranquebar Book of Queer Erotica), on the other hand, gives immense space to fantasies. Perhaps in keeping with the stereotypes associated with the queer world being bold, daring and experimental (the flip-side being unnatural, shameful and confused), ‘Close, Too Close’ has employed and given space for several sexual fantasies, including using a vibrator, dreaming of intercourse with a minor boy (inter-generational sex), queer games, conference sex and threesomes. Perhaps, unconventionality and varied fantasies go well with the definition of what it means to be ‘queer’ – weird. People play queer games (‘All in the game’), a middle-aged gay man –fantasises about having sex with an underage Kashmiri boy (‘Dreams and Desires in Srinagar’), two women engage in conference sex (‘Conference Sex’), a gay man and a straight feminist (as she calls herself) engage in a threesome with a seemingly heterosexual guy (‘Screwing with Excess’).

In ‘Alchemy’, The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories II, ‘Mouth’ by M. Svairini explores the many sexual fantasies, including those that may be categorized as queer, set in the context of sexual role play and orgy. Stylistically, the story stands out in its use of several literary tools like analogy and personification. Participants involved in the orgy are all named after specific erogenous zones like the mouth, the cunt, the cock and the ass. The choice of the body part is extremely interesting and perhaps even deliberate in being both accurate and ambiguous at the same time.

In ‘Electric Feather’, The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories, Sheba Karim’s ‘Heavenly Ornaments’ explores the shame and dangers associated with being public or open about one’s sexuality or sexual desires. This shame gets doubled if it is that of a woman and more so if that of a single, deserted or divorced woman. Concepts of purity and impurity are highlighted. Another story that was striking was ‘The First Time’ by Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan’s that traces the coming of age of its protagonist, Aditya, a twenty-seven-year-old advertising executive, who goes through a journey of sexual discovery. It narrates the journey of its protagonist from his dorm days, when he accidentally enters a room of two boys helping each other masturbate. Disturbing as it may have been to him, Aditya longed to replicate what he just saw as the pleasure that he observed in the two boys seemed genuine and true. However, later, he understands, through watching porn, that masturbation was not the only way of attaining sexual ecstasy. The story is not only significant in foregrounding sex education and sexual education; it also highlights the importance of one’s peers in shaping (almost permanently) one’s attitude towards sex.

It is interesting to note, here, how something deemed as private and intimate is actually shaped in one of the most public and open fashions – in peer group discussions, by hearing about it from friends and acquaintances and by observation in popular culture and social media. This is exactly why this genre gains importance. Erotic literature serves a culturally and socially significant role not necessarily in opening up sexual possibilities for its readers but by giving that required space for the reader to embrace and be comfortable with his/her sexual desires – something that is otherwise openly denied in accordance with social dictums. Erotica may or may not question normative ideas about sex and sexual experimentation. However, in its very act of talking about sex in the most direct and detailed manner in a deeply prudish and hypocritical world, it plays a transgressive role.

*The anthologies I studied were as follows:

  • Joshi, Ruchir ed. Electric Feather: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories. New Delhi: Tranquebar Press, 2009.
  • Hussain, Ameena ed. Blue: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories from Sri Lanka. New Delhi: Tranquebar Press 2011.
  • Karim, Sheba ed. Alchemy: The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories II. New Delhi: Tranquebar Press 2012.
  • Meenu and Shruti ed. Close, Too Close: The Tranquebar Book of Queer Erotica. New Delhi: Tranquebar Press 2012.

All these texts have published erotic stories in the form of prose, poetry and graphic art. The contributors are from India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

This post was originally published on TARSHI‘s E-magazine ‘In PlainSpeak’ here.

What I Want


I want to spend the day weaving words with you. I don’t care if they are gigantic words like “procrastinate” or tiny ones like “too”. I don’t care if they are long sentences or empty and incomplete phrases. We must weave words together. Words sprayed randomly across pages in different colours and moods. 

I want to hear the gossip at your workplace. I have bored you enough with my work stories; I now desire to hear yours. Who is pregnant? Who is dating whom? Who is likely to get a promotion? When is the next appraisal? I want to hear about it all.

I want to eat a dish cooked by you. I want to witness how you prepare to make it. I want to see you in a bright coloured apron and see you grin at me as you wipe tears from your eyes while chopping onions. I want to see you work doubly hard on garnishing the dish that you make. And I want to see the eagerness in your eyes as I take the first bite.

I want our house to be never lacking of fresh fruits and vegetables. I want to see you bargain at the grocery store as you pick and choose items for our kitchen.

I want to have never-ending discussions around topics that irk you and me. I want to engage in a debate where we lay bare our politics and grapple with it. 

I want to argue with you on mundane and everyday things: which earring to wear, which jacket to buy, which book to donate, which book to keep, which biscuit to buy, what kind of milk to purchase everyday, which song to hum and whose turn is it to clean the toilet today.

I want to sing a song we both like under a hot shower. 

I want to write an ode to the white hair on your chin beard. And read it out to you in bed.

I want to hear you moan more often. Louder. Longer. Sharper. And I want to be the cause for the moans.

I want to be hugged and held in bed every single night that we spend together. Until we naturally drift apart.

I want to kiss you till eternity. And never find a reason to stop.

Inspired from this post.

Read What I Don’t Want

Serendipity


As he inhaled the nicotine, his past flashed in front of his eyes. The woman who betrayed him. The father who supported him. The mother who knew it all along but kept quiet. And the friend who advised him to forget it all and move on. As if it was that easy. He crushed the cigarette under his foot and mulled for a while. Try as he might, he couldn’t stop thinking of the mistake he had committed. Knowingly. Unknowingly. Willingly. He stared at the setting sun. Yet another day had passed. He couldn’t believe it had been so long. He looked at the skyline and felt the need to smoke again. Squinting his eyes at the mighty sun, that continued to display its power as it bid goodbye for the day, he lighted up his fourth cigarette for the day.

Two years ago, he lost his virginity to a Muslim bride. She was irresistibly pretty. Her kohl eyed face sometimes still visited him in his dreams. She rarely covered her hair, as was the custom in their community. And he was attracted to this little rebel in her. She was fiery, feisty and arrogant in her persona. There was always a pinch of rage on her face. O, what a sight! To hear her disagree. To stare at her unstoppable mouth that refused to shut up. To see the fury in her eyes when she disapproved of something. The subtle sight of victory on her face when he finally surrendered to her arguments. She enjoyed winning. And he loved losing to her.

Their passion was alive and aloof at the same time. He believed he had found love in her. He had never been so hopelessly awed at any woman in his life. Perhaps that was not the case with her. She had loved many times. Well, not exactly love. She carefully avoided any confrontation with that four-letter word. She enjoyed his company. And he was a good kisser. She didn’t look for a third reason. She didn’t need one. They spent days and nights together. He: unaware that she was engaged to someone else. She: reveling in his ignorance. Until one day, truth decided to show up on its own. She moved on. He was crushed.

As it started getting darker, he felt a chill run down his spine. His loneliness was pricking him like a thorn. The Muslim bride was a traitor. He obviously fell in love with the wrong woman. Like he had any control over it, he thought to himself, and lit a beedi. The cigarette packet had nothing but ashes left in it. He walked to the shore to meet the stranger woman.

__________________

As she put on her clothes, she mused  over the colour brown. The colour that reminded her of her lover. His skin, the colour of coffee sans milk. Brown. Dusky. She decided to drape her brown dupatta today. Somehow, today smelled of him. His aura. His mere presence. She sipped her glass of wine and fondly remembered her days with him. They had been together for two years. And it felt like she had met him, known him, felt him only yesterday.

It’s been a little over a year now since his death. Thirteen months ago, Fate took him away from her. Fate that brought them together. Fate that seemed to promise them a lifetime of togetherness. Maybe Fate had other plans; maybe even better ones. But she was too nihilistic to consider that possibility. She wiped her bindi. It didn’t go with her attire, she felt. But then, something looked missing on her face when she removed it. She put the bindi back on. A brown dot that seemed to suggest that it belonged there, no matter what she wears. It seemed to complete her. She sighed.

She finished her glass of wine, stole one last look at the mirror that always lied and left her apartment. The shore was a twenty-minute long walk. The weather was promising this evening. It played juvenile games with her brown dupatta. But she didn’t mind. It eased her conscience and she was more than happy about that. She had barely walked a couple of minutes when she felt a drizzle caress her cheek. Was she crying? She touched her eyes to check. Drop. Another one. This time on her forehead, narrowly touching the brown bindi. She touched her forehead and realized that the bindi had gone. It had left her, too.  She didn’t care to cover herself with her dupatta. As the raindrops touched her soul, she was reminded of her own mortality.

She reached the shore earlier than expected. It stopped drizzling. As she looked at the moody waves of the sea, she waited for the stranger man.

__________________

They both knew each other’s story. Their broken lives had felt a resonance. They had never met. They were strangers, after all. And yet the fact that they knew everything about each other was true. It was surreal. They had written letters to each other, read poems on the phone, even wrote stories and laughed about it. They had never known what it was like to be in the same place at the same time. They breathed the same air. They lived on the same earth. They stared at the same moon every night as they spoke over the phone and discussed its fading light. But they had never met.

As the waves growled angrily and shone under the moonlight, two figures inched closer. Two figures who had not known to be around each other and yet knew what it would feel like when they would be together. Alone. He breathed the air that she exhaled. And with the power vested in her as the perfect stranger, she kissed all his troubles away.

__________________

The conspiracy of opposing thoughts


So, what is the big deal about kissing anyway?

How would you know? You’ve never kissed.

I almost did once.

You’re bluffing.

Fine. Don’t believe me.

No, I do. It’s just hard to imagine.

Why?

I can’t picture it. Maybe I don’t want to.

Well, then, you have a poor imagination.

No, I don’t.

Of course you do. Your visualization is selective and hence unreliable.

It’s nothing like that.

Fine. Live in denial.

Oh, shut up!

Well, if that’s what you want.

No.

No, what?

I don’t want you to shut up. I want you to listen to me.

I’m listening.

I had a dream, in which I saw that we were discussing about the art of kissing.

Much like how we are doing now?

Somewhat. But we aren’t discussing the art here, are we?

We can, if you want to.

Well, how do we? You say you have never kissed anyone before.

As if you have kissed a thousand times!

Are you implying that I’m a slut?

Would it matter if I did?

No.

Then, why do you ask?

My sincere apologies. Anyway, just so you know, I’ve never kissed a bearded man before.

Well, then it will be a first for both of us in some ways.

Indeed.

So, are we still going to talk about it or do something more?

We would do more. But this isn’t the right time.

Why not?

I don’t feel confident enough.

You don’t feel confident?

Yes. Why? Is that too difficult to fathom?

A little. Given your experience.

Experience doesn’t necessarily give you confidence.

How would I know! I’m too naive.

You aren’t. You’re just a novice. 

What’s the difference?

Just about an inch of ignorance between the two.

Ah. I see. So, when do you think we should be doing it?

I don’t know. I’m not sure. I can’t take all the decisions all the time. You tell me.

On a full moon night?

No. It would be too bright. 

On a new moon night?

No. It would be too dark.

I give up.

Why do you have to be so clichéd all the time? 

You can have a clichéd dream. I can’t suggest a clichéd reality?

What is so clichéd about that dream?

It’s the dream of a romantic fool.

I’m neither a romantic nor a fool.

If that would have been true, we would have kissed by now.

As really imagined by the author in a dream

Disciplined Desires


The lady hasn’t brushed her hair in three days. Work hasn’t given her the luxury to enjoy such a mundane activity. Her life has become as mechanical as she had anticipated the day she signed the company contract. Every day, she gets up at 7, narrowly escaping burning her hand while boiling the milk, picks up breakfast on the way from the roadside idli shop, as she heads to her office after commuting for 45 minutes. She works around ten hours every day, with some lunch and dinner thrown in between, and is back home by 10 pm. She’s usually too worn out to calculate if she worked overtime.

It’s Saturday today. The lady has a rare weekly off. And that’s how she has had an additional luxury—the opportunity to meet him. The man. She hasn’t seen the man in weeks now. He is as busy as her. Or so he claims. She reminisces on the days when she used to dress up, spend hours thinking of the colour of her bindi and wipe out that extra eye-liner that spread at the corner of her eye, minutes before meeting him. Today, her hair looks messy and she has no bindi; she hasn’t had the time to buy a new sheet since the last one got over a month ago. Where is the time? And does he even care how she looks? Should he at all? The lady brushes aside such rhetorical questions as she waits for him patiently at the station. Again a luxury. No, an indulgence she hasn’t had the time or energy to appreciate in the recent past—awaiting the man’s arrival in anticipation.

The man has been busy. At least, that’s the rationalizing he has relied on in the last couple of weeks. February has never been an easy month. Not because it is the conventional month for the proverbial blossoming of love—he’d frown upon such a morose assumption. It is the month when his students at the school have exams. He has hundreds of erroneous papers to correct and stamp their future careers with an A, B+ or a D-. If he is unlucky, he gets the job of invigilating exams during this time. It annoys him to be in a class not to teach but to merely watch sixty students vomiting together what they gobbled up a night before on the answer scripts. It makes him question the methodology of his teaching. It makes him wonder if he can even teach anyone at all. It makes him question his own skills and whether he has any that can facilitate a stable livelihood. Thirty-three isn’t a very cheerful age for a man who neither has a steady job nor a steady wife. Or even a girlfriend. His mother worries he might be gay. Well, he might as well be. That would solve a lot of his problems, anxieties and worries.

The lady tries to vaguely remember the discussion they had the last time they met. The man had then said he really liked and enjoyed the company of a certain woman. But he wasn’t sure if she was the right one for him. He had never been sure of anything. Not even himself. He was a brilliant singer but he barely cared to facilitate that potential. He ended up being a teacher because he frankly had no idea what else to do after having acquired his graduate, post-graduate and doctorate degree. His ease with the campus life had made him so comfortable in a student’s environment that its insulation became too reliable to let go. But when age and poverty hits you, you turn tables around. He loathed the idea of working for someone. His pride was too big for that to ever happen. He enjoyed the company of kids. He adored them. He believed they were the only species left that still possessed unadulterated innocence. He may not be sure if he ever wanted a wife but he definitely wanted kids. With whom didn’t matter for now. Maybe with the woman he has been thinking a lot about. The one about whom he wishes to talk of. To the lady who is waiting patiently at the station for him. Is there an irony here? He is more excited to talk about her with the lady than being with the woman he thinks he likes a lot. Perhaps he has feelings for the lady? Na! He dismisses that thought immediately. The lady would never be interested in a lost soul like him. In any case, why was he giving the lady a thought anyway? He is losing focus, he tells himself as he systematically tries to arrange his thoughts.

As he approaches the station, he catches her glimpse from the corner of his eye. The lady’s hair is messy. She isn’t wearing her bindi. And she looks tired. The company is sucking every ounce of beauty out of her, he infers. No. Wait. Why is he giving a damn about her beauty? He’s here to tell her he thinks he loves another woman. Not to wonder what the hell happened to her orderly hair and why has she suddenly separated from that little red spot that lightened up her forehead. She is texting someone. Probably me, he muses and feels a strange sense of glee at that thought.

The man arrives right on time, as the lady flashes him a friendly smile. After the customary exchange of greetings, he plunges right into “business”. He rants about how much he thinks he likes this woman. And how tormented he feels when the woman refuses to reciprocate his feelings. As he talks, he notices the lady’s obedient eyes: trying to absorb every tiny detail he shares. Why isn’t she wearing her eye-liner today? He enjoys taunting her for having spread them at the corner of her eye. He revels in pointing out her clumsiness. Today, he has been denied that little joy. As he talks of the woman, he pierces his gaze into the lady. She is too aloof. He’d never be happy with her. And no, he does not want the lady. It’s the woman who he likes, damn it. The woman. Not the lady. The lady is too sophisticated for his taste.

The lady listens patiently to his story. She likes to listen. It is an easy task. Easier than talking, she believes. As he finishes his tale, she waits for a couple of moments before saying anything. It’s a lot of information to process for the day. Things have certainly changed between him and the woman since the last time they met. Well, time runs, she muses. At least things aren’t stagnant. That’s a good start. she convinces herself. She has to convince herself before convincing him. It doesn’t work otherwise. She is no expert on relationships. But a divorce inevitably teaches you stuff. She is occupied today in work because that keeps her divorced from her ex-husband and his thoughts. Drowning in work is better than drowning in suffocation.

He doodles ‘anarchy’ on his jeans as she lectures him on love.