Monday, November 23, 2020

Are you for real?

People from your past never grow old do they? They are stuck in the same place you last saw them.

The problem is, they continue to live and grow in your mind. You imagine them living and behaving as you wish. They take on an entirely believable life in your mind that when you actually meet them later in life, it comes as a shock to you that they're a whole another person!

But does that revelation stop you from continuing to imagining them? No!
You carry on happily, coming up with little dialogues and run-ins and intimacies that make you so happy inside.
Sometimes though the imagination isn't enough. You begin to crave that person living in your imagination to come and make it all real. Oh you still don't want the real person to be there - no no no. It's your imaginary real person for whom you yearn!

It's at times like these, I wonder what if we had a method of communicating these expectations? Maybe that real person has moved on so far ahead that they can't reconcile themselves to the version you imagined. But what if there's someone else out there that matches the imaginary friend you look for?
Then you meet in real life and make a new friend!

The only problem I see here is that your imagination is probably pretty private and there's no way that you can make it public! Anonymous sharing may help but world being as is now, you'll probably just attract creeps. Without resorting to anonymity, the minute you talk about the imaginary version your people know whom you're talking about and judge you. Worse: that person from your past comes to know that they still live in your imagination but in such an avatar. And worst of all the people in your current life come to know that you are weirder than they thought and may not entirely be happy about your private imaginative life!

What's the point of this rant then, you ask? Sometimes wild thoughts refuse to stay cozily inside the mind vault and insists on being laid out in words.

The Reunion

'Batch of 2009 - 10th reunion' the banner proclaimed gaudily. Sara was thankful to enter the hall with Vini by her side. Being not particularly fond of the majority of her classmates, she felt confident facing them with her best friend by her side.
“There! I see Mina. Come on”, Vini pulled her through the sparsely crowded hall. Sara's eyes were arrested by a familiar face near Mina. She automatically felt her tread slowing down. No, she wasn't as confident as she thought she will be.
Before they could reach her, Mina screeched across the room, “Sara! Vini! Oh my god, how long has it been?”
'So much for a subtle approach', Sara sighed to herself. His head had whipped around at the sound of Mina's welcome. He came forward hesitantly though eagerly, "Hey.... Sara, how you been?”
"Hey Nikil", she managed.
He turned to Vini with an easy smile, "Hey Vini, how's the family?"
The hellos were all done and they had all found seats around the circular tables scattered across the room. Sara was thankful that no formal seat allocation had been done. She found that she still couldn't stand many of her classmates. And also she might not have ended up next to Nikil, as she did now.
"So, what have you been up to?” he asked casually.
"Hacking away at life, one day at a time", she said with a straight face. Seeing his startled face, she smiled her trademark curved smile. “I’m sorry, I knew you wanted to know about job, family etc., but I was feeling particularly philosophical then".
"Wow, you haven't changed at all, have you?” he smiled at her.
"I have, Nikil. I very much have", said she looking intently at him.
The hall had started filling up and the reunion events were starting. This was no place was intent conversations. Nikil knew that until he had had that conversation with her, he cannot leave the town. He was able to turn to his other neighbor only after he had made sure that Sara will meet him, at the cafe that had been a favorite haunt, the next day.
---
“It's a Latte isn't it?” he asked her, desperate to be right.
“Latte would be good”.
He heaved an internal sigh of relief, not knowing that she wanted him to be right and that she gave up coffee ages ago.
“Find us some seats. I’ll get the coffees”, he walked off. Waiting in line, he couldn’t resist sneaking surreptitious glances at her. She was lounging by the window, looking lost in thought. ‘What was she thinking? What will she say now? Is it too soon to talk about…? No’, he decided vehemently. He did not have the luxury of time. This was not college where he had thought, foolishly he added in mental parentheses, there was always going to be next day or next year. It had to happen in the now.

Sara was smart enough to understand the reason behind this meet. Though she came hoping that it might happen, she still found herself pleasantly surprised that it happened. Being of the group of people who always secretly wish for a thing to happen but convince themselves that such a thing cannot happen to save themselves the disappointment, she was cautiously happy to finally be sitting here, looking forward to coffee and conversation – the latter more than the former. Cautious, since she was not sure how they were going to talk about it; And if he knew everything that had happened. This train has to make a lot of stops before it reaches destination.
 He came back with the coffees. “So”, he said settling in. “So”, she smiled. Deep conversations have a tough time taking off. You can’t just dive directly into the deep end. Questions that will change his life were foremost in his mind. So obviously he asked her anything other than them. “How's work?” he started.
“Good, how about yours?” Yes, she was doing it too.
“Pretty good”
She smiled her knowing smile. They both understood they didn't really care about each other’s work.
He gathered up his courage. 10 years of separation and age gives that courage. “Are you ok now?”
“Of cour.... Oh”, she understood him and bit off her conventional reply. “Yes, I really am”.
“When I heard about it, much time had passed. Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to talk about it. I wasn’t comfortable calling you up out of the blue. Still I wanted to reach out to you many times, but -”
“But didn’t know how I’ll take it?”
“I’m sorry about it, you know. I really am. ”
“Nikil, it’s fine.”
“Are you really fine Sara? It’s not that I’m prying but I need to know. What actually happened?” He needed to understand and it had to come from her.
She looked at him, startled. The Nikil she knew was never this direct. He had usually been a little diffident around her, never really understanding that she always had given him more rights than he had taken. This directness made him more attractive.
“You know about the accident, I suppose”, she said with a slight question. He nodded.
She went on with her calm, measured voice. “It shattered me. It claimed my unborn and kept my husband and me in the hospital for weeks. After a while, we got better. Better in health, though not in mind. We were ridden with guilt. We blamed ourselves for something that had been beyond our control. It was natural to have a lot of ‘what ifs’. We had our fair share. Counseling helped a little.”
She took a sip from her cup. Nikil didn’t move a muscle.
“Well“, she continued, “it had been a little more than a year since our wedding. It was supposed to be the time for a newly married couple to get to know one another. Not to go through a life-shattering experience. This changed us. Completely. He had gotten married during a rebound phase. I had gotten married because it seemed like the right thing to do. But after that, we both realized that we could not find a reason to stay together. Every day, we kept finding reasons to stay away from each other. Divorce was the sane option. A quick wedding, quick death and quick divorce”, she gave a self-deprecating smile. Less because she enjoyed her wit, more to let him know that she really was fine.
“It’s easy to talk about it now. But I kinda withdrew into myself then. If it hadn’t been for Vini, I might still be there. I got a transfer to be near her family and have been there ever since”, she ended with the same smile.
--
There had been silence for about five minutes now – which really is a long time. She had compressed 10 years of her life in just a few minutes. It took Nikil more time than that to process it all. His mind was racing in a million different directions. Above the racing, one thing stood clear – his resolution of asking her to share his life just got infinitely stronger. The experience had emotionally scarred her but she was still the resilient, confident girl he had known. The scar had only increased his respect towards her.
He had always found it a little hard to collect his thoughts and put them into words when he needed to. And he found himself in the same unenviable position now. While he was struggling with his thoughts, she had moved on with hers.
“So, tell me. What have you been doing with yourself?” she asked. Five minutes were all she could give him to respond. When he didn’t, she didn’t get upset. She had been used to not hearing what she wanted to hear from him, that it had stopped bothering her long ago. With a mild shrug, she naturally shifted the focus.
It had always been like this between them. She had usually decided the direction their conversations shall take. ‘But today’, Nikil decided, ‘will be different’. He ignored her question.
“I’m glad you told me about… well… everything. Sara, will you give us a chance?”
This was a very direct and confident and yes, vocal Nikil that Sara was seeing and for a moment she was disconcerted. Though the question was a wonderfully welcome one, there were still many stops the train needed to make.
“What about… what about Nitya?” she asked a little hesitantly.
“Nitya?” he was surprised, “Didn’t you know that we broke up after a few months?”
“No…” she gave a sudden smile, “all I knew was ‘Nikil – Nitya’. It was our college’s version of ‘Ross and Rachel’”.
“She moved out of the city for her work and long distance wasn’t working. We realized that the only reason we got together was because everyone around us expected us to be together. It was a different kind of peer pressure” he sighed.
“If only…” he stopped.
“What?”
“If only things had worked out between us, there wouldn’t have been any ‘Nikil – Nitya’” he looked at her with something like a reproach.
She raised her eyebrows in an ‘are you kidding me’ look. “How could it have worked with us when you were already with her? From the time I knew you, you guys were talked of together”.
“That was all just talk. They took something I said, added their own meaning to it and started talking of it as if it’s a sure thing. I believe all I said was she was hot or something. College kids – what can you expect?” he said ruefully.
“But you never denied it!”
“Didn’t I? I tried really hard to convince you that there was nothing going on between us. But you were not interested. Whenever I tried to talk about her, you changed the topic”
“Nikil,” she was half amused and half frustrated, “didn’t you realize I was jealous?”
Now it was his turn for the look. ”Jealous?” he said unbelievingly, “You?”
“God! Don’t we know anything about each other? Yes. I was jealous. Madly so. I hated hearing of her. When you started talking of her, I was afraid that you might make me your confidant. It was hard enough to see my guy falling for another girl. I couldn’t imagine being a confidant for them too. That’s why I always changed the topic”
“I’m sorry. Did you just say ‘my guy’?” he asked, smiling from ear to ear.
She flushed and bent her head.
“Why didn’t you tell me this Sara? At least shown me that you were interested?”
“Misplaced pride I suppose”, she said shrugging. “I couldn’t show you my interest unless I knew you were free. But that didn’t happen. There was always this girl or that girl...”
“Sara!! You’re making me out to be a Casanova! Which other girl was there?”
“Oh please! How about Varsha?”
“Who..?”
“Varsha, from first year?”
 “Oh… her. Why would you assume there was something going on? I don’t even remember her”
“It was something that you let slip back in the day. Never mind”, she stopped for fear of appearing whiny.
“No. Tell me please” he was insistent.
“Well,” she started half-ashamed, "I had called you at midnight on your birthday. I heard call waiting. When I asked you the next day, you said you had been speaking to her.” She was fully ashamed now. “I got mad that you ignored my call to speak to her. My over-active imagination came into play then – I had you guys married by the end of that semester. Forget it, it doesn’t matter”.
This was a new Sara that he was seeing.
“Doesn’t matter? Doesn’t matter? If only I had known this, I would’ve come and told you point-blank that you were only girl who mattered. I always found you unwilling to talk about this. I didn’t understand why until now”
“That’s the problem with being a version of the 'strong, independent girl'” she sighed. “I wanted you to make me feel special, feel pampered but my pride always stood in the way. There was no way I was gonna show myself as a jealous girl who needed assurances that she was the most important person in someone’s life.”
She gave herself a little shake and continued. “Now that we have begun the full disclosure I might as well tell you all, I guess. Then there was Neela. I heard her in cafeteria one day, going on about how much in love with you she was, and that she had spoken to you about it and was waiting to hear from you. But I didn’t hear a peep from you about her. I assumed that you didn’t think me close enough to talk to me about her.”
“Wait a minute,” he interrupted, “you got mad I tried to talk to you about Nitya. Then you got mad I didn’t talk to you about Neela? What is a guy to do?”
“Oh they are two different things. You don’t get it”, she said impatiently.
“I have a feeling I never will”, Nikil smiled.
“Anyway, all these things contributed to my thinking that you only just thought me as a good friend and nothing more. That you found me easy to talk to and that’s it.”
“Well, the talking part is right. Out of all the girls in our class, you and Vini were the ones I found easy to talk to”
“There! That exactly is what I mean. See what you just did? When you want to make someone feel special you don’t group them with another person! Vini is my bestie, but when you say things like this, it appears that you put me in the same position as her. Any wonder that I thought I was in your friend zone?”
He sighed, exasperated.
She gave a sudden laugh. “You know what? Forget my stupid complaints. Water under the bridge. Good that we finally cleared it all up”
“Yes,” he said “10 years later!”
“10 or 20, I’m glad it happened Nikil.”
 “I have to agree. I'm really glad we cleared the air today”. He took a deep breath, "You do realize that you really are special to me? That there is a reason I came to this reunion? All through our college life, you were the only one in my mind. Even though we never got together, even after we went our own ways, I just couldn't shake you off my mind. No one else felt right. Not even Nitya", he smilingly answered the question in her eyes.
Her face lighted up. She couldn't believe she was finally hearing what she always wanted to hear. Her college crush, her closest friend was finally confessing his love to her! She had imagined versions of this scene many times in her mind. But never got the confidence to make it a reality because of her misconceptions. But today! Did the long-lost coffee break her reserve? She gave the coffee a sip of thanks.
"I'm sorry I kept these grudges. I should've asked you directly but couldn't quite overcome my ego.  I also must confess - you were the only one that was special to me. No one else mattered. If only I had the courage to tell you this then...", she sighed. 
It was his turn to light up! "Let the past die. What matters now is the future. Will you share yours with me, Sara?”
He held out his hand. She took it.



Friday, April 10, 2020

Lyrics Appreciation Series

There are two kinds of music listeners - those who hear the lyrics and those who hummmmmmmmmmm.
For those of us that belong to the former category, almost all the songs sound like they're written for us and us alone.
Social media has killed that feeling to a certain extent - after you've seen a million TikTok videos for the same exact song that you just swooned over, you get cured of that.

However, recently there was one song that immediately sent a delicious jolt inside of me. This is a song about forbidden love - the girl, who knows her desire is beyond the moral confines, still asks if it can be fulfilled. And the boy replies with his poetic consent.

The questions:
ஏனோ இரவோடு ஒளியாய் கூடும்
உறவொன்று  கேட்கிறேன்

Why do I yearn for a bond
that merges darkness and light

வரை மீறும் இவளின் ஆசை
நிறைவேறப்  பார்க்கிறேன்

I want to fulfill this desire
that bounds across barriers

நதி சேரும் கடலின்மீது
மழை நீராய்  சேருவேன்

I will be the raindrop falling
on a river that joins the ocean

அமுதே பேரமுதே,
பெண் மனதின் கனவின்
ஏக்கம் தீர்க்குமா? ஏற்க்குமா?

my magnificent elixir,
will you sate this girl's desire? will you accept?

மதியை தன் மதியை
இவன் அழகின் பிம்பம்
கண்கள் பார்க்குமா?
தோற்க்குமா?

can my eyes see my moon in his beauty's shadow? 
or will it fail?

The answers:
மழை வானம் தூறும்போது
மணலென்ன கூசுமோ?

When the rain cloud drizzles
will the sands  shy away?

மலரோடு மலர்கள் கூட
ஊரென்ன தூற்றுமோ?

who would censure 
two flowers coming together?

திரையே திரை கடலே
உன் அதிரும் அன்பு
மதிலை தாண்டுதே
தூண்டுதே.

my glorious ocean!
your shattering love induces me
to cross the barriers

What a beautifully imagined dialog this is!

I raise my hands in appreciation to Ms. Uma Devi, who penned the original song titled Anbey Peyranbey. Thank you for this beauty!




Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Ms. Uhnnda Stoude

Long long ago, so long ago, no one knows how long ago, there lived a girl.... I think. Well I'm pretty sure she did because our heroine most certainly descended from her. The girl is of the kind who do not learn from their elders and betters - especially when the E's & B's tell her specifically not to [insert any action under the sun]. Her immediate response would be to try that and tell them
"Ohhhh, this is why you told me not to do that. Sure thing, I won't do it anymore" while rubbing her broken leg / burnt finger / singed hair etc. It is a wonder that she escaped near deaths long enough to live and bear descendants.

Well, she did and our heroine is one of them. How do I introduce her to you? I know! Visual Exercise! I want you to imagine you're at the gym - well, specifically at the trash cans behind the gym. Do you see that old tattered punching bag - at the end of its life after receiving blows from many, many boxing gloves over many, many years? MEET OUR HEROINE!

Well, not really but you get the idea.

Our heroine has always been a social creature and a constant twitterer. No, I don't mean that she is in that social network! Get your head out of that cloud! And NO I don't mean the iCloud! FINE. She likes to talk, ok?  And since she likes an audience, she tries to gather as many people around her as she can. And that's where the trouble starts! Did you know that not all people like being gathered?

Here's how it'll typically roll.... Our heroine will come across one person (call them A) whom she instantly connects with and then another (call them B). So naturally she'll bring A & B together because, you know, more the merrier and all...
At this time, one of three things will happen
1. A hates B and will exit, punching our heroine in the gut
2. A loves B and will exit taking B, punching our heroine in the gut
3. A & B both like our heroine and stay on until they each realize their own gangs are more important and will exit, punching our heroine in the gut

Do you notice a common theme in these scenarios?

---❦---

Our heroine loves archery. Slinging arrows at targets is her favorite pastime. And that's how her words flow out of her. Sharp, decisive and flying towards the target. Maybe her love for archery is to blame for the words zinging right out of her mouth. Unfortunately not all of her word arrows reach their target. Well, hey, I said she loves archery, I didn't say that she was an expert!
This is to be said of our heroine: even though the arrows miss their targets, they're always well-intentioned. But, what's the use of well intentioned arrows completely missing their target or worse, hitting the wrong target?
Some times, our heroine takes too long to aim an arrow because she wants the arrow to be so perfect that the target tires of her and walks away, completely missing their intended arrow. And other times, the targets appear so intimidating that she loses her nerve and bungles her arrows.

In any case - all these targets do the same exact thing: they turn right around, pick those missed arrows and throw them right back at our heroine. With a vengeance. I mean, can you blame them?

No wonder she begins to resemble a pin cushion more and more.

                                                                            ---❦---

So, in conclusion, she is a pincushiony, battered, punching bag. This PBPB just doesn't seem to learn though - I mean all she has to do is stop putting herself there, but noooo. True to her ancestry, she will keep doing the same thing over and over because... she is persistent? she won't rest until she gets her 'gang'? she is adamant? she is resilient? Nah. She just has a short term memory and can't help getting punched over and over. 

Next time you see the PBPB wandering around looking for more punches, say hi (from a safe distance). Did I tell you her name yet? Look up, I named this article after her. It's pronounced "under stood".

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

தூக்கம் ?

(Product of a sleepless night)

நித்திரை தேடி நித்தமும் அலைய
அந்தியின் மடியில் கண்களும் சரிய
குறும்பு நெஞ்சம் குழப்பி தாக்க
தடுமாறும் எண்ணம் தட்டி எழுப்ப
குமுறும் ஆசைகள் கூச்சல் போட
பதைக்கும் மனம் பனிக்கால இரவில்
நித்திரை தேடி நித்தமும் அலைய

Friday, November 17, 2017

Yearning

It comes at you suddenly. A bolt of lightning out of the blue that shatters your foundation. A hook that flies out of the pages of your memory - pierces your thoughts so deeply that you are frozen by the pain of it. These hooks are hanging always just outside your consciousness, like a curtain of snakes floating and drifting.
A song, a photo, a picture, a name, an utterance, an action, a gesture, a new smile that reminds you of an old - one of these will call a snake to life. You'd feel its fang sinking into your mind.
Immediately, a tornado of yearning engulfs you. Completely. A yearning for something that is a nanometer out of your reach. A yearning so powerful that you're left gasping for life.
That yearning is for the most bittersweet of them all....'what might have been'. For that friend lost in time. For that love that slipped away. For that question never asked. For that answer never given. For that voice never raised. For that pain never soothed...
This yearning shall twist you, toss you and turn you. But it won't take you unless you ask it to. It shall be a brief storm that shall pass. Enjoy the torment while it lasts but ground  yourself firmly when it ends.
This yearning proves that you've lived. It keeps you awake. It keeps you alive.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

On a shadowy night

the fog has blanketed the world outside
secrets, spirits what else does it hide?
a purple light slowly twinkles afar
not a mystery, only a christmas star
a sigh is heaved, my heart disappointed
it needs a mystery on a night so haunted
been at my window these hours past
wishfully willing a mystery to start
if real world's shadows do not bring one
it's to imagination's shadows I must turn.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

O Canada!

[Apologetic note on showing no love to my poor little blog for 2 years goes here]

I take up my pen laptop once again to take you with me down memory lane while I re-live a great trip. 'Twas a happy week I spent fulfilling my dream of visiting Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Yes, I was part of the group of million little girls who fell in love with Prince Edward Island because L.M.Montgomery taught us to do so via her Anne books. And finally, I was there in person! Here's the story of what happened:
It was a relaxed start on a Saturday night flight to Halifax (the closest cheap airport to PEI). However, about 40 minutes before landing, the pilot scared us by saying the due to the fog and the ensuing poor visibility, they might re-route the flight to Bangor, Maine (The last place on earth I wanted to be. Not that I had anything against it) While I was crossing all the fingers I had, happily no such disaster occurred. Thanking my lucky stars I set foot in Halifax. And in a short while at the rental car place, I had occasion to thank the same lucky stars with a big whoop when I set my eyes on the Chevy Camaro that had been given us. Color me materialistic but there it was - sitting black and beautiful and delighting me. Bless you, Thrifty!

We zoomed on to PEI and stopped at this place called Gateway Village - aptly named as it lies at the gateway at the end of the 13 KM bridge into the island. I expected to see Anne at the island and I did - at Anne of Green Gables Chocolates store. I guess Anne books are the most important claim to fame  for the island and they were going to milk it for all that it's worth!

It was a late evening when we reached the B&B and we spent it at a nearby beach called Brackley. PEI is known for its red soil - this beach was no exception. The beach sand had thousands of red stones mingled with it.
Stone castles at Brackley Beach
Get the joke?
Next day - the best day ever - was Green Gables day. A little history (skip to the pic if not interested/you already knew): Green Gables was a house owned by relatives of LM Montgomery, whose Anne of Green Gables series of books are part of classic literature. The author based the books on the house and its surroundings. She was a very descriptive writer so the island and its people become very real to the readers. I had lived in PEI through her books when I read them. And now, I got to see the actual Green Gables house, the actual Haunted Woods and the actual Lover's Lane. Oh, to be walking the same paths where I imagined Anne walking! For those of you not familiar with the books, this was like Disneyland without the ridiculous amount of people, dollars and wait times.
Green Gables
Haunted Woods
Lover's Lane

Next stop was Cavendish beach which had stunning red stone cliffs. 
The ruddy cliffs
With the elements
On the way back, by a very lucky chance, we happened upon a group of people waiting in line for a Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) - an Irish and Scottish music and dance party. If you are ever in PEI, do not miss one of these. Ours was performed by the Ross Family - a very talented brother-sisters trio who along with their mom had the crowd tapping along to their lilting music. A fantastic end to a fantastic day.

The next day, I attended a musical - Anne of Green Gables, the Musical (what else, right?). Well, the best thing I can say is they had some good parts. Anne herself was a really huge disappointment. If you've read the books you know that Anne is a very high-spirited, talkative girl with a love for long words and wild imagination. And Anne always took herself seriously, very solemnly. The actress who played her had zero imagination and played Anne as a comical child who screams and scampers around. She was high-pitched not high-spirited. Jittery, not solemn. The saving graces were the few musical numbers which kept me not too irritated.

Phew, that rant felt good. I can't believe I've taken up so much space with just 2 days of stories. And we spent an entire week there! I'll wait till you refill your coffee for the five more days' worth stories.

Most of the the Islanders are a really nice, friendly bunch of people (now don't be all cynical and say that since tourism is a main business they can't afford to be un-friendly. Let's not forget the New Yorkers.) Wherever we went, there were people willing to talk to us about local history, direct us to favorites and haunts and always curious to know who we are from. When we visited the eastern part of the island the next day, thanks to some of these friendly folks, we visited an artist at his store where he let our 6-year-old make his own sea-glass necklace, had an excellent breakfast featuring the famous PEI potatoes, visited a 148-year-old lighthouse and saw and heard the Singing Sands ("more of squeaking sands", as the lady said) at Basin Head beach.
East Point Lighthouse

Bridge Jumping at Basin Head
The Basin Head beach was interesting because the sands there make a sort of squeaking rustling sound when you drag your foot on them. And it also had this bridge spanning the boardwalk from which strong swimmers were jumping into the swift deep waters below, get dragged by the current into a sort of natural pool formation.

PEI is a very beautiful island. And I believe summer time was the best time to visit since it was an amazing visual treat to see the contrasting island colors - the red soil, the varying shade of green crops, the blue sea, the yellow and purple wildflowers filling the meadows, dark and light clouds sailing in the blue sky. Nature was at her very best and her human creations hadn't dared to disrupt much of her canvas. 

I will leave you now with a few pitifully inadequate images of the island that I was able to capture. In my next post, I'll tell you all about the rest of the trip where we dipped our toes in a deliciously named river, went back in time, delighted in yet more samples of nature's hand at work and saw an interesting phenomenon that can't be seen anywhere else but there.