Of love, hate and raindrops


As the rains are dominating the background music of my mornings these days in New Delhi city, my mind has turned more contemplative than usual. For one, I have found it the toughest to write and/or blog again. Complacency, of course, is always the most visible reason. But there are demons I am fighting that are preventing me from picking up the pen again. Lest I pour out feelings I have blocked so well in the past couple of weeks.

As I stand in the balcony worrying about the supposed demons, the wind blows and the raindrops splash on my face. I wonder aloud about Suri, a cat I raised (not alone but sometimes, it did feel like he had no one but me and I had no one but him). Introducing Suri, who he was and what he means to me is rather a futile exercise for my brain as I organise my thoughts on a windy morning. But the one thought that refuses to leave my mind is this: was my Suri, really, as pensive as a cat. Or was he too smart and evolved from all these cliches and similes?

If Suri were around, I wonder what he would wonder. Lying and lazing on that balcony. Staring into oblivion. And sometimes, even, leching after the pigeon on the opposite fence. Would he think it’s too mundane out there and just sneak back inside and curl on the bed? Or would he try to gnaw on one of my bags that haven’t been blessed by his teeth marks? Well, maybe none of this. Perhaps he would rather relieve himself and simply pee on an old rag or an abandoned mattress on the floor rather than the litter box filled with fancy kitty litter granules made exclusively for him (No. Despite whatever he may believe, it certainly is designed for exclusive feline use). The wind makes you want to pee, he’d argue. With his large, green eyes. And soft, rhythmic purrs.

Suri.png

Pic credit: @soorishoonnya

If Suri were around, he would not let me even type this much without creating some nuisance or the other. He would slyly slid inside the blanket and campaign for a strategic posture between my legs. The 0.05 mm space is what he would want to claim as his own. And he would fall asleep in a second rendering me helpless to move my body or position lest he wake up and create the commotion all over again. I have lost count on the number of days my legs went numb protecting Suri’s right to reclaim his space. I have also lost count on the number of times I have smiled every time this has happened.

Bansky once said: “They say you die twice. Once when you stop breathing and the second, a bit later on, when somebody mentions your name for the last time.” As I shut my eyes and let the rains tell me their story, I think of Bansky and what prompted him to say this. Did he lose someone he loved? Or worse: did he lose a cat he loved to hate and hated to love, just like me? My relationship with Suri was so complicated and convoluted, I lose my chain of thoughts thinking about it. We have been through so many opposing emotions together: love, hate, affection, annoyance, joy, guilt, beauty, envy, calmness, chaos and more. And in exact equal measure too, I believe. It is hard to concentrate on the rains. Suri’s enigma continue to fog my mind.

A couple of days ago, I purchased a photo frame to (supposedly) immortalise a particular photographic moment in Suri’s life. Suri died over a month ago and, ideally, I should have done this then. It isn’t a time taking exercise. The market is nearby. There are plenty of pictures to choose from. And it doesn’t cost a lot of money to do it. But it took me the longest time to act on this long pending task. I was not procrastinating, I realise today. I was still mulling over Bansky’s words. Trapping him in a frame and putting him on my wall seemed to confirm that this would be the last of him. Would this be his second death? When all that survives is a single moment? 

The rains haven’t stopped. They will probably answer my existential queries some time later. But I am still fighting my demons. Demons that paralyse my fingers as I type my most vulnerable thoughts. Demons that make me think if Suri has, indeed, died twice. And demons that also make me wonder if he had eight lives before. I was guilty of hating him when he was alive. I am guilty of loving him even more when he isn’t around. Does absence make the heart grow fonder? Or is Suri trying to tell me that that’s just another pseudo-literary rationale? Maybe the raindrops will tell me. I am waiting. . .

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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

The wait…


She was a good ten minutes late. What reason was she going to give this time? Traffic? Left home late? Had work? Lost track of time? All of these true. She hated the way the day had begun. She woke up with a sore throat. She couldn’t find what she wanted to wear. And now she was a good ten minutes late wearing what could best be described as “the perfect last-minute find”. Well, all these issues could be sorted out easily: all she needed was a hot cup of coffee, he didn’t really care what she wore and he was used to her late comings. But it was enough to spoil her mood. She hated that café, to begin with. Far from home, did not serve tea and loud and expensive: this wasn’t her idea of a café. Which café serves just coffee? She rarely drank tea but liked to believe that she had the option to order it. And the sad little cookie that came along with the coffee: that just seemed preposterous.

The café sported a deserted look. A plump middle-aged man enjoying his cup of latte was the only other customer. He was so focussed on his caffeine that the only time he denied it any attention was when the woman made some fidgeting noise with her handbag or house keys. He stared at her sweaty face, while she ignored him. His leching was least of her concerns; the guy she was supposed to meet hadn’t even arrived yet and here she was, anxious that she was late and that he might be angry for waiting so long. This was a rare victory for her. She had arrived before him. That was almost as rare as her wish to drink tea instead of coffee. She mused over the lectures she would give once he arrived decidedly late.  She rehearsed a couple of lines in her head, determined to teach him the lesson of time management and punctuality.

Clicked by Sriram Erramilli

Clicked by Sriram Erramilli

Half-past twelve. Her throat was feeling better. Her anger had boiled down. The plump latte-drinker was gone. And there was still no sign of him. She called him for the seventh time and for the seventh time the sadistic bitch said that the number was out of coverage area. She was drinking the coffee rather slowly, so she could avoid the glare of the waiter, who was trying to figure out what was this woman doing in the middle of a hot day in this sad, deserted café. He was probably judging the man she was waiting for, she thought, and this infuriated her. Who was he to think anything about her lover? She was in good mind to give him her coldest stare but she had other things to worry about. The sadistic bitch on the phone continued to revel in her restlessness.

Her second cup of coffee arrived. This time, the waiter served it with a smirk on his face. She stared right back at him, her eyes defending her lover’s absence. She kept staring at the door, wanting to catch his sight sooner than anyone else. The coffee did not taste good this time. Or perhaps her foul mood had spread through her taste buds. She blew the froth away as the agonizing wait started killing her bit by bit. She tried his number again. Maybe eleventh time would be a charm? It worked. The number rang for about a minute until it got disconnected as no one picked it up. The sadistic bitch, this time, said he wasn’t picking up and asked her to call again. Damn! Well, at least it was ringing. That could be a good sign. He was probably driving and on his way. Good thing he didn’t pick up. It was never right to pick up calls when driving. What a sensible man, she thought. Funny how anger turned into admiration. And it took only twenty minutes, two cups of coffee and eleven call attempts for that to happen.

As she blew the invisible froth for the hundredth time, she practised several versions of speech in her head. How much that sadistic bitch on the phone irritated her; she called him to hear him, not her. How the waiter always questioned her choice by his smirks; she should not be feeling answerable to anyone but she somehow felt compelled and defensive. How the plump guy kept reading through her restlessness. How agonizing the wait was and what it did to her curious mind that leapt at the slightest trigger. She had finalized every single word and every single emotion of her speech. But they all drowned and faded into oblivion. He was here. And all she could think of was to envelop him in her embrace. Nothing else mattered. Not those speeches. Not the smirk. Not the stare. Not the judgment.

Of music and romance


For me, Prague meant Rockstar. Prague spelled theatre, culture, arts, opera and ballet. Prague reminded me of Ranbir Kapoor and the song Aur Ho. But it is so much more. It is said to be the cultural capital of Europe that is host to several Czech and English language plays and theatrical performances. Unfortunately, I did not have the money to afford a ticket to any of these but there is theatre, drama and music on the streets. I found people from different backgrounds and knowledges producing music out of sheer wood. Or a cane. Or a rod. Anything that produces sound was wonderfully converted into soulful music. It’s amazing to witness musicians on the street playing for people, hoping for money and entertaining anyone who lends them an ear.

Musicians from Mexico performing on a street in Prague

Musicians from Mexico performing on a street in Prague

In many ways, Prague reminded me of India. Mumbai, to be more specific. It had been a while since I saw a definite crowd gathered on the street in Europe. It had been a while since I saw a street performer entertaining an audience with his tricks and treats. It was also quite relieving and satisfying to see people not obeying the traffic light when crossing the road. Mumbai just came flying back to me as I ran across the street while it was still red. Prague also gave me an ‘Indian’ feel (whatever that means) as I passed by streets of flea markets that sold stuff at a reasonable rate that was subject to bargaining. This was the first time in Europe that I got a chance to negotiate on the price with the seller. 

A bird's eye view of the city of Prague

A bird’s-eye view of the city of Prague

The much-talked about and popular Charles Bridge was an experience in itself. I went there in the night, which makes it twice as colder and thrice as awesomer, with all the lights. The cool breeze on the bridge can make a chill run down your spine, both literally and figuratively. It’s a must-visit and represents Old City in the best way possible. The best part is that this beauty is for free. There is no entry fee and it’s a public bridge open to all pedestrians. Old City is full of music and merriment. There are people everywhere. Gathered for a wedding ceremony or to hear out a musician or to skeptically look at a street performer’s magic tricks. A better view of this cosmopolitan crowd is wonderfully captured from the astronomical tower that allows a bird’s-eye view of the entire city.

People gathered to witness a wedding on the street in Prague

People gathered to witness a wedding on the street in Prague

With Prague becoming my first out-of-Deutschland experience, I headed to another neighbouring country: Austria. As a kid, I always confused Austria with Australia owing to the missing ‘l’. I remember realizing the difference of not just culture but also geographical location between the two countries. As I learned that Austria is a separate European country, I mulled over its European connection and dismissed it instantly. Who would have thought that someday, I would get to visit its capital city Vienna, touted as one of the most romantic cities of the world (closely following Paris and Venice). I am not a romantic and I don’t understand romance the way it is conventionally spoon-fed to us via media images and literature. In fact, I have consciously stayed away from reading anything that belongs to the romantic/love story genre. But Vienna, as a city, will probably make the unromantic appreciate romance in a way he/she never fathomed.

A tree decorated at a Christmas market in Vienna

A tree decorated with miniature guitars at a Christmas market in Vienna

Romance and the idea of romantic is as subjective as the idea of love. Vienna is a land of classicism and perfection: verbs one would normally not associate with romance. But there is love and romance in music that the Viennese have produced. There is romance in their orchestra. In its harmony. In its choice of violins and the cello and their jugalbandi. In the way the trumpet complements the saxophone in a well-conducted musical symphony. In its disciplined music that demands perfection from each of the musicians who never fail to deliver. It’s the land that Beethoven and Mozart spent many of their years in. And you can’t dismiss them, even if you’d want to.

An exhibit of Mozart's achievements in Haus der musik, Vienna

An exhibit of Mozart’s achievements in Haus der musik, Vienna

Vienna is also the place where much of the movie Before Sunrise is set. But more than just its Hollywood and filmy connection, the city enamours you with its epicness. The streets are wide and long. The people are many and multi. The transport is varied and crowded. The city speaks in many languages, German being the official one. Despite its Deutsche-speaking population, it does not feel like Germany at all. It’s like Austria is trying to niche its own identity, and successfully so, while sticking to the common language. I think I would have felt the same after living in Spain, learning Spanish and then heading to Mexico.

The famous Ferris Wheel in Vienna

The famous Ferris Wheel in Vienna

Next up: France, Italy and Spain

Read Part 1 here

The Gaze


It was pointless to carry an umbrella that evening. It poured so heavily, no amount of monsoon gear could prevent the water to somehow seep inside. Yet, he stood outside the local tea-shop holding the black umbrella in one hand and a tea-cup in the other. It was almost about to get over—the tea. He had had three cups already. He had rarely felt so anxious. The tea wasn’t helping reduce that. The raindrops were making a rhythmic noise. He mused at the oxymoronic symphony of nature as he gulped down his fourth cup and asked for another. It seemed someone had poked the clouds real bad; water was leaking from the skies. He wouldn’t have been surprised had the blackness of his umbrella leaked out too and merged with the heavy downpour.

She had just crossed the lane. If he was wet despite the umbrella, she didn’t need one to join the camp. Perhaps she was more sensible than him and understood the stubborn and moody nature of rains.  Her red kurti was soaked in water and the blue of her jeans turned a shade darker owing to their wetness. Her hair was tied in a bun and water dripped on her face like a leaking tap. She kept sipping the raindrops that fell on her forehead, passed around her eye, slipped across her nose and innocently entered her mouth. From that distance, he could see all that. The unabashed look on her face. The nonchalance in her walk. And despite that, the weariness in her eyes. Her eyelids were fighting the sharpness of the raindrops. She seemed to have surrendered to their power. Almost voluntarily.

As she inched closer, he grew more anxious. He knew he wanted to talk. He didn’t know what. More importantly, he no longer knew how. They had been friends for over two years now. And in that one year, they had grown so close that he could gauge every expression on her face. They could talk without the need to converse. He couldn’t claim to be at such ease with many people. Maybe his girlfriend, but that had taken a while to develop. But with her, he didn’t have to make any effort. They just clicked. Like finally digging out the right key for that lost and introvert lock. The ease, of course, had been mutual. She could be herself with him. She could talk non-stop about everything under the sun and hear him talk of his passions in the most dramatic way. They’d talk for hours discussing the most mundane objects of life in the most graphic and detailed manner. As if the debate on which ice-cream flavour is better was going to change the world.

She walked past him, aware that he could sense her presence and had been deeply affected by it. His eyes reeked of contempt. She never understood why. She was too ashamed to even ask the reason. Shame and guilt came easy to her. It was easier for her to feel ashamed than feel loved. And he knew that well. She studied him. He was deliberately looking away. That it was deliberate was clear from the discomfort that had suddenly erupted on his face. He blew a couple of invisible puffs on his tea-cup, as if that would make everything normal.

Their eyes barely met. He stole a glance of her just when she lowered her rain-kissed eyelids. He looked for a fraction of a second, lest he be caught looking at her with compassion. Just when she lifted her gaze, he shifted his own. She could hardly gauge the expression in his eyes. But it silently screamed of disdain. She could have been wrong. But who could prove otherwise? She sighed at her own sad assumption. She let the rain soak her entire body and wash away any sin that she could have possibly committed. Perhaps the answer lay in the mighty clouds that were growling so shamelessly this evening. It was already getting dark. For the first time, she felt thankful for the absence of sun. She didn’t want the rays to penetrate her. Being in the dark comforted her. It offered her the promise of anonymity and that is the only identity she desired.

She crossed the tea-shop and stood under a leaky roof couple of meters away. A street dog was sleeping peacefully. The noise of the raindrops were ironically working as a lullaby for him. Her footsteps so near him startled the dog and he woke up with a start. She bent over and petted him lovingly. The dog didn’t seem to mind that she was completely drenched. The dog wagged his tail enthusiastically as drops of water from her hair fell on his ears. He began sniffing her kurti. Convinced that she meant no harm, the dog moved closer and looked at her face. Her eyes were wet. Not from the rain, the dog could tell. He licked her teardrop away.

Not very far away, the man standing with a black umbrella in one hand and an empty tea-cup in the other saw it all. He turned his back towards them and started walking away. As far away as his weak legs could take him.

Simile


Like the kajal loves the eye on which it spreads

Like the little kid loves the green balloon 

Like the employed woman  loves her salary

Like the unemployed man loves a new opportunity

Like the health freak loves salad

Like the eagle loves its flight*

Like the rabbit loves fresh carrots*

 

Like the dry mud loves its wetness when it rains

Like the sun loves the rainbow

Like the fire loves light

Like the river loves the sea with which it unites

 

Like the cook loves his spatula 

Like the guitarist loves the strings

Like the naughty girl loves her pranks

 

Like the washing machine loves detergent

Like the library loves books

Like the opera house loves melody

Like New York loves the ‘New’ in front of its ‘York’

 

Like the moon loves darkness

 

Yes, I love you too.

 

*Borrowed thoughts

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.

__________________