A little something…

My desk
Late night desk

Writing in a circle of yellow light, alone at my desk, at four in the morning.An after dinner conversation about ecosystems, the last book I read (Autumn Light), the odd hour coffee (the culprit!), a walk under trees with bare branches, a familiar warm smile;  the previous evening swirls in my mind.

(Note: This is a recycled post from a now deleted blog of mine)

There Never Was Such An Animal

You’re not like the others. I’ve seen a few; I know. When I talk, you look at me. When I said something about the moon, you looked at the moon, last night. The others would never do that. The others would walk off and leave me talking. Or threaten me. No one has time any more for anyone else. You’re one of the few who put up with me.
(Note: The world is getting busier each day, and we discreetly explore the outer limits of our peripheral vision to find someone who would put up with us, the good and the bad, without being judgemental. It involves a lot of luck.)
He glanced back at the wall. How like a mirror, too, her face. Impossible; for how many people did you know who reflected your own light to you? People were more often–he searched for a simile, found one in his work–torches, blazing away until they whiffed out. How rarely did other people’s faces take of you and throw back to you your own expression, your own innermost trembling thought?” 
(Note: In my relatively short life, I had met only one person who mirrored my innate and well-concealed restlessness, but I didn’t stick around to find out more. It intimidated me.)
I feel I’m doing what I should’ve done a lifetime ago. For a little while I’m not afraid. Maybe it’s because I’m doing the right thing at last. Maybe it’s because I’ve done a rash thing and don’t want to look the coward to you.
(Note: For a little while we lose the fear. Just for a little while.)
Are you happy?
(Note: Yes. But I am afraid to think beyond what is obvious and within reach.)
How do you get so empty? he wondered. Who takes it out of you? And that awful flower the other day, the dandelion! It had summed up everything, hadn’t it? ‘What a shame! You’re not in love with anyone!’ And why not?
(Note: Seriously, how?)
Stuff your eyes with wonder. Live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. see the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. Ask no guarantees, ask for no security, there never was such an animal. And if there were, it would be related to the great sloth which hangs upside down in a tree all day every day, sleeping its life away. To hell with that . Shake the tree and knock the great sloth down on his ass.
(Note: Life’s unpredictability scares me immensely if I take a moment to take it all in, but then where is the fun and thrill without the surprise bumps and bends in the road?)
I ate them like salad, books were my sandwich for lunch, my tiffin and dinner and midnight munch. I tore out the pages, ate them with salt, doused them with relish, gnawed on the bindings, turned the chapters with my tongue! Books by the dozen, the score and the billion. I carried so many home I was hunchbacked for years. Philosophy, art history, politics, social science, the poem, the essay, the grandiose play, you name ’em, I ate ’em.
(Note: I would religiously follow this diet for a lifetime. Just garnish it with some fiction. I don’t mind the kyphosis either.)
But most of all, I like to watch people. Sometimes I ride the subway all day and look at them and listen to them. I just want to figure out who they are and what they want and where they are going. Sometimes I even go to Fun parks and ride in the jet cars when they race on the edge of town at midnight and the police don’t care as long as they’re insured. As long as everyone has ten thousand insurance everyone’s happy. Sometimes I sneak around and listen in subways. Or I listen at soda fountains, and do you know what? People don’t talk about anything.
(Note: Hmm. The last time I enjoyed talking to someone was exactly ninety-nine days ago. The rest of the umpteen conversations since then has coalesced into an indistinct lump of words. How many of us have real conversations and not vacuous daily updates?)

~Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Midnight Girlfriends

I’ve friends in town. but the ones closest to my heart are scattered all over the world. The statistics are as follows: 3 in US, 2 in Delhi, 1 in Noida, 1 in Pune, and well, 1 is in Guwahati, but is perpetually tired after a hectic day at the bank, so it doesn’t count as being near. An occasional phone call, a funny email, frequent texts, ‘liking’ stuff on social networks; that’s the current platform where friendships have shifted.
It’s no one’s fault; life moves on, career and marriage decide the course of our lives. Thousands of miles deter that staying up all night to talk, long days of shopping for the best bargains, excited whispers of a new romance and the loud screams that follows, sitting quietly over a cup of coffee, and never letting our inner child lose in the mayhem of adulthood. I do feel a sense of loss; but I accept the inevitable.
But technology has narrowed this chasm somewhat. It connects three of my girlfriends every midnight with me. There is this Wisconsin bombshell, a bundle of wit, who has me laughing my guts out every night with her hilarious stories. She is always on the invisible mode on chat, and I’m never sure whether I would be disturbing her at work if I send her a hello. But she invariably sends me a message few minutes before midnight; and our talkathon begins! We talk about our fathers and the funny situations they land up in so often; reminisce about college days and gossip about the ones we shared the classroom with; we worry about our negligible love lives and the reluctance to do anything to salvage it; she teases me about my ‘innate romantic streak’; she is exasperated with the men I fall for; we discuss the silliest topics ever on the face of this earth; and confess to each other the queries in our minds that we would be too embarrassed about asking another individual. Often we go, “yeah, me too!” She is a ray of warm sunshine at midnight!
There is my friend in Noida; we connect over the BBM alternative, Whatsapp. She sends me soulful songs; we discuss music, movies and our beloved books every night. She is privy to the turmoil that my heart is in; and is a soothing voice to all my apprehensions. She says things will be alright, whatever happens; and I believe her. She is always the first reader of my blogs. I tell her the stupid assumptions that my heart makes; and she patiently listens to them. She is often the voice of  reason that I can’t hear myself through the blur of love. I love telling her the little details of my day; and she joins in my enthusiasm always. It’s a feel good hour of conversation every night.
Another is the lady in Boston. We don’t chat, we don’t talk on the phone. We write each other long mails. Really, really long mails. We expose our vulnerabilities, we lay bare our hearts, we share our deepest thoughts, we tell each other stories. I treasure all her letters/emails. I read the vivid life updates that she sends every fortnight and feel I’m there with her, as she shows me around her new life. We write about love, about women, about reading, about writing. I value her advice a lot and follow it diligently. Every time my inbox flashes her name, I know the reader and the friend in me is in for a treat.
How isolated I would have felt without my midnight girlfriends! I need someone to talk to at the end of the day, share the little things. My sister raises a suspicious eyebrow when she sees me typing rapid texts on the phone every night. She asks me who is the boy I’ve been talking to. I show her, and she shuts up.

What The Weather Makes Us Say

Why My Sister is Darwin’s Re-incarnation?
It was a harsh winter in the mountains of Tawang and I entertained the poetic tragedy of being frozen to death and be discovered in spring thaw. But my sister had strong survival instincts as evident in her statement below.
Me: It’s so cold, I’ll turn into ice.
My Sister: It’s so cold, I’ll turn into a polar bear.

The Curse of The Snowy Mountain
My newly-wed friend returns after a honeymoon in the snow clad mountains.
Me: How was the honeymoon?
Friend: (loud, excited voice that reached husband in the next room) It was so much fun. (in conspiratorial whisper) But you know he is still irritated.
Me: Why?
Friend: It was so cold, he couldn’t get it up…(just then friend’s husband plops on the sofa next to her)..couldn’t get up the mountain, you know, it was freezing weather on the trek. (Straight face. Not a flicker of emotion.)

A Family of Helens
On a day when the humidity made me want to jump into the nearest river, a friend called up and told me about their family’s collective summer tribute to an iconic “dancer/item girl in the Hindi film industry.
Friend: It’s so hot, na? We are down to wearing the barest minimum. There are four ‘Helen‘s in our home now. Ma is ‘Big Helen‘, Ba (elder sister) is Helen‘, and I am Mini Helen’. Deuta (father) is ‘Topless Helen‘.

When I Insulted A Pig
After twelve hours of being trapped in the poorly ventilated ‘labour room‘ wearing plastic protective gear and breathing in the nauseating smell of afterbirths, my friend resented when I compared us to ‘sweating pigs‘.
Friend: Don’t insult them. Pigs glow, only we sweat.

The Death of Maternal Affection
An aunt known for her scrupulous attention to hygiene was aghast that her own son didn’t inherit it. On a humid summer evening she made the grave mistake of rebuking him in front of a host of relatives.
Aunt: It’s four in the evening. Why are you so lazy? How can you go through such a hot day without taking a bath?
Cousin: Arrey Mummy, I may not take bath once in a while, but even you take bath  just once a week in December.

Debut of The Dazzling Scalp
It was a hot hot day and I was waiting under the embarrassing small shade of a coconut tree. I could feel the sweat patches growing on the outfit that took me five hours to decide on and worse, the hairspray-induced bounce in my hair deflated and drowned in a pool of sweat. Humidity dealt me a cruel blow.
(Ex-)Boyfriend: Sorry, I’m a bit late. Why are you standing in the sun? Come on, let’s go. By the way I never noticed it earlier, but your scalp is so white!

The Highest Testimony Of Love
Monsoons in India bring out the “Fear Factor” contestants in us when we take leaps of faith over the submerged gutters and manholes in our daily commutes. Cars float and not all of us have boats in our garages. Every morning we bid emotional farewells and wonder if we will be back home for dinner or float down the underground sewer. Add to that the deluge from overflowing drains that makes us want to amputate our legs or soak them in Dettol for a year. A friend waddled through this disgusting flood to her fiancee’s home on his birthday.
Friend: Happy Birthday! I couldn’t go anywhere to buy a gift. But this is your gift. Just look out of the window and see what I walked through. Just see for yourself how much I love you.

When The Wind Blows
While watching Marilyn Monroe’s vain attempts to keep her dress down as she stood provocatively over the air vent: 
Friend: If I had those legs and if I had that dress, I’d wear it only on windy days. 

Photo Courtesy: Isabella Bannerman