Could you?

Could you live with the night in your sunny universe?

Could you accommodate a tear in your vast smile?

Could you stay awake when all you needed was sleep?

Could you fool yourself in thinking everything was fine?

Could you carry the burden of the past knowing it wasn’t one of yours?

Could you be fine for you and i both?

Could you desire when i had lost hope?

Could you hope when i despaired?

Could you be ruined for the sake of my reputation?

Could you replace your warmth with my chill?

Could you truly make me yours when i’m not even mine anymore?

Could you feel when I went numb?

Could you live with knowing that it was a path of thorns you were walking on?

Could you spin poetry from the unwritten prose i served you?

Could you?

Could you?

The Ghost contd…

Introduction:

 

A guy I once had a thing with had accused me of being heartless; had said:

“You feed off pain, yours, mine and everyone else’s. That is the food for your poetry and prose; the nectar to your hive.”

I don’t disagree with him. I am no preacher and neither do I pretend to be something holier than thou. I am just a writer; a romantic if you will, always out to achieve the impossible; the impossible expedition, the impossible relationship, the impossible situation where you need to stick squeezed out toothpaste into its tube. Impossible, impossible, impossible.

But pain’s just my bread and butter and neither do I deny the fact that I revel in it and nor do I pose to be not-guilty.

I am guilty guvner; so hang me by all accounts.

Consider this: a tale for the passing traveler and a means of satiating their thirst. Thirst for gossip and thirst of drama.

A small tale whose end I leave you to decide.

 

The Ghost contd…

 

It had been two years since the exchange of glances in the bookstore. 2 years since my ghost walked out the backdoor with a smile on her face. 2 years of winters and 2 years of clearing the snow from our front porch.

I can see the dead bees in the ground- a bee graveyard. Last night’s thunderstorm had knocked the hive out of the tree and the unsuspecting queen had been crushed to death along with her children and servants.

They say that it is at moments you least expect that the force of the hit is most. I experienced that hit last night. It was a text message on his phone that got my guard up.

“Honey bun…I miss us. Come back to Cali soon my love…XOXO.”

The sender was titled ‘Work’. I could hear him whistling Bee Gee’s Staying Alive in the shower. It was 9:45 and we were due for dinner at the Mason’s at 10:30. They were completing their ten year anniversary.

Jake came out wrapped in a towel with his hair all tousled and brown, just the way it was the first time I had seen him. His eyes still had the piercing power it held and his hands- his strong masculine hands covered with a layer of light brown hair- reached for his shirt.

“D why aren’t you ready yet?” he asked in his honey voice.

“Who is ‘work’ and why is ‘work’ crooning for your love from Cali?”

His face changed. From a light hearted spark, his eyes went to that of a defiant child caught with his hands in the cookie jar to that filled with rage.

“You’ve been reading my messages? How could you do that to me? To us? Don’t you trust me? This is unbelievable. I am out of here.”

And just like that it was over.

Bags were packed in a matter of minutes and the taxi was called. The funny thing is that none of us spoke. The Masons were sorry that we couldn’t make it and ‘work’ was really pleased that she didn’t have to hide behind a noun anymore.

I was back home- to my tiny flat- in a matter of two hours. The storm was raging outside and I could hear the wind whisper- I told you so.

The tequila bottle stood innocently on the shelf and called to me, as if asking me to embrace it like an old friend.

It was successful. Half a bottle later, I could hear her sing to me:

“Drink up baby, stay up all night,

All the things you could do, you won’t but you might…”

This was our favorite song: her and mine.

“Missed me have you?” she asked while caressing my hair.

“In a way I have,” I sobbed into her lap.

Her cold hands brushed against my cheeks and her cold lips pressed against my forehead in a sisterly way.

When she bend down to kiss me, her curls covered my eyes and all I could feel was darkness.

The night held comfort. Nothing could go wrong anymore. The worst was over and she was back. I was free to rejoice in the night once more. The pretention could be thrown out of the window.

After an eternity of her comforting embrace, she pulled me up and led me to the balcony.

It was almost dawn and through the pool in my eyes I could see the horizon: clear with a hint of cloud and the tiny speck of light that was the sun. The breeze rustled the trees as if waking them up from their deep slumber and telling them of a new day, a new opportunity.

I went close to the railing; spread my arms and felt the chill pass through me. If was scarily beautiful. That beauty could destroy, just like a set of luscious red lips on a petit maiden.

But warning of those evils never stopped anyone from falling for them. I remembered Desiree and her tragic love affair with the fearless Napoleon. Love consumes all till only ashes remain.

Today was the dawn of ashes and along with the rustling, the puppeteer upstairs rained down ashes of a fragmented relationship on me, freeing me from the clutches of him and his web of lies forever.

The storm had cleansed at last and my ghost was back with me for eternity.

 

The Ghost

The bespeckled therapist gave me a puzzled look. She asked—anger at what child?

Anger at what? At who? Why anger? Why not tolerance?

“If I knew that I wouldn’t be here”.

I am an expert at being rude and unpleasant when the situation demands it.

There was a ghost in my life. The clinical term for it is ‘dysthymia or chronic depression.’ It had haunted me since the deciding age of 11.

My ghost paid me visits at random intervals. She knocked at my door and let herself in. She can pass the barriers of wood and steel and will power. She can walk through walls and possess the soul.

She shows me alternate realities. Possibilities that make my mind go bonkers. No it’s not always black or blue. It is various colors all at once. She is moody, like me.

“Tell me what you feel when she visits,” the relentless doctor probed.

“Umm…have you ever had your skin peeled when on meth or ecstasy? It feels good and no before you ask—I have not done either. A friend of mine is a pro when it comes to this and he keeps me educated.”

“I want your version.” I could see she disapproved of my attempt at humour. Perhaps a lover or a brother had been a victim.

“Okay. Have you ever been in love with the darkness? Doesn’t the night wrap you in a warm blanket and sing a lullaby? Doesn’t looking at the moon just soothe your soul? Have you ever fallen in love with something that is bad for you Doctor? I have. All the forbidden things that ever were. I like the darkness. I like peeling my skin off me. I like the peace and quiet. I like the loneliness. My ghost gives me all those—the calm and the high all at once.”

“How about the anger?” She adjusted her frame and smoothed her already smooth skirt.

Why was she so hell bent on the anger part? Didn’t she get it? It is in the anger that the pleasure lies.

I hear about how people enjoy getting tattooed for the pain instead of the symbols themselves. Another friend of mine had tattoos all over his body. He said he did it for the pain. It was in the pain that gave him a high; made him feel alive.

“The anger is the easy part. It is just frustration that has been bottled up I guess. When a volcano erupts, it doesn’t do so with a warning. It just does. It is a relief for the earth. Same goes with the anger. The anger is easy and promises a cure.”

“Anger on what?”

Again that question. Why couldn’t she just let it go? Why couldn’t she focus on the important part? I could see her eager for the information like a kid opening the gifts on his birthday. A greedy kid.

“It doesn’t matter. Anger at everything. Why doesn’t the circle have sides? Why isn’t King Kong our president? Why am I not born in a different era, under different circumstances?”

“But don’t you get it? All your reasons are extremely stupid?” She was losing patience now.

“Lady don’t you get it? The anger is directionless and random. I don’t have any sob story to narrate. The anger is not important. How do I exorcise my ghost?”

She fumbled and gave me a few exercises to do. “Paint or read or write or listen to music when you feel low. Here are some pills you can take but take them in moderation. The most important thing to remember is—never give up hope and try to think bright thoughts whenever you feel low. And I am right here if you ever need me.”

Nice. She gave me the text book cure and increased her brand value all in the same breathe. They should have a prize for this kind of ability.

She handed me a prescription and I walked out of her office. When I reached my empty flat, I was greeted by her. She came over me like a mist on a winter evening.

“Why do you haunt me so?” I asked her.

“I like you and you know you like me too, a tiny bit. Say you do and here now, don’t lie to me. I know you in and out.”

I smirked. I did like her a tiny bit. Help can only be given to those who seek it. Who was I fooling when I said I needed help? I didn’t. I like her and she understands me. She lets me be quite and be on my own.

She is like the drug which keeps you yet takes from you a little by little.

Well, I don’t really care. She keeps me and that is enough. Now I think I will go back to my darkness. You be happy basking in your sun. We are the children of the moon and we live at night. You be happy at your side of the fence and we will do the same on our side.

 

 

The day was grey. The rain god seemed to be punishing the earth for the fools it produced. It hadn’t stopped raining for 24 hours. I was sitting in the small balcony of my nine hundred square feet flat and basking in the mist.

She was there, surrounding me like a blanket and singing me a soothing lullaby that was haunting at the same time.

“X got a job and a girlfriend…she has big ones, you know and I hear that they are about to announce their engagement soon,” she whispered into my ears.

When she got no response, she went on to play the higher card.

“They are in Europe…the three of them must be eating croissants under the Eiffel Tower right about now. She doesn’t remember her promise clearly. She still hasn’t called. There they are a family in the true sense of the term and here you are, a sorry little thing stuck with me.”

Still no visible response from my side; just a lump in my throat. It’s not like I hadn’t heard this before and neither was I completely indifferent, just yet. But she didn’t give up. She came closer still, till she was right inside my head. I could feel her strutting about looking for vulnerabilities- going through the archives and dissecting each document she found.

A few rain drops later, she hit hard.

Tring tring, tring tring…you remember it don’t you?”

In that instance, I saw my father receive the call and his face contort immediately after. It just took two words to do that to him.

Now my eyes got moist and the lump rose up and hit my nose. The flood gates opened and a rusty tasting liquid flew out of my nose and eyes.

I could feel her trying to hide her smirk. But she was like me, pathetic at hiding things and keeping secrets.

“Have fun darling. I shall be back soon.” She gave me a cold hug and left. I remained in the square of the semi open space, with the patter of the rain in my ears and a raging ocean in my eyes.

 

 

The red pen stand in her room amused me. A latest addition, I assumed. It was a pig with a hole in its back with pens sticking out of it. Some of those instruments of torture and relief, lacked a head and some were stripped to their basic minimum clothing.

“Is that new?” I asked the doctor.

“Yes it is. It was a gift from a patient. You like it, do you?”

“I think I do. It is amusing how we disfigure objects to fit our need. The color is nice though. It’s the color of life,” I was talking to another soul after long. It felt different now; needed more of my concentration and effort.

“Hmm. I will gift you one if you succeed in overcoming your condition,” she said with a 32 all out smile.

I was back in first grade again. My teacher had promised me a caramel toffee if I finished writing ‘I am Radhika’ in cursive hand at least fifty times by the end of the hour. Well of course I could manage just thirty, but the feeling remained the same.

“Let’s get back now. Tell me about your father. Are you angry with him still?”

Suddenly her dirty yellow walls looked more interesting than her banter. A bee buzzed into the room and went straight ahead and collided with the yellow. It kept colliding with the same spot for five times before it fell on the ground and gave a sigh of relief (or at least I would like to imagine).

“Radhika, Radhika.”

“Ya right…umm…angry at him? No not really. Did you notice what the bee did? It seemed like it was on a suicide mission.”

“Suicide. Well, do you have any suicidal thoughts?” she asked as she raised her glasses up to look at me. Her interest in me had doubled now. I was a complex code she was trying to decode and she had found her first big lead.

“Ah…no. It takes too much of effort and I am kind of attached to my flat. So no.”

“Haha…right.” Again the forced laugh. I bet if we counted the number of times an individual forces emotions on themselves and remove those instances from their lives, they would be left as zombies with poker faces.

“If not anger, what emotion do you feel when you think of him?” By now she was sitting absolutely upright with her back as straight as a crane’s neck.

“I can’t say for sure, really. I think I am sad but how does one know what emotion they are feeling? We give a certain type of feeling a name and get done with it. What about the other types?”

“What other types of emotions do you feel?” She was squinting now.

“How about something bordering indifference and sadness? Or something where you are so happy that you are sad.”

“Right. So your ghost…how is it these days?”

“It is a she and I would much rather you address her by her gender,” I was offended. Nobody referred to her as ‘it’.

“Why a female though?”

“She has the subtle beauty of a woman and she makes me suffer like a dog.”

Now she was confused. Who wouldn’t be? I wanted to get rid of her, but I respected her. She was slowly becoming a part of me. I would miss her if she went away. I would feel empty once more.

As soon as I realized this, I grabbed my bag, made a lame excuse about having to pick up the mail for a friend and headed towards the door.

I hadn’t much cash on me, so I headed for the subway. While I was waiting for my train, a butterfly flew next to me. It had the eye on its wings and it stood there, fluttering its wings waiting for the train, like everyone else.

It got on the train with the other passengers when the coach arrived and got off two stations before mine. I would only assume that it, like me, had urgent business to tend to.

Once I entered the apartment, I called to her. She came out running with her white teeth bared and hugged me tight.

“Welcome home darling. What would you want to see today?”

I gathered my courage, looked her straight in the eye and said, “don’t go. Don’t ever leave me. I need you for survival. I’ll make you a deal. You torture me as much as you want but don’t ever fade away in smoke. Please.”

“Never.” She looked scared.

 

 

He had dark hair and pink lips. I could see his brows burrow through the crack of the book rack. He exhaled and put the book back in its place. Ten seconds later, he picked it up again and sighed. No one can stay away from that one.

Everybody has a Rebecca in their life and so did he. Those eyes found mine and smiled.

“Don’t do that to yourself. It’s a trap. He will leave, like everyone else,” she insisted.

Suddenly I was transferred to a room from my childhood. It was decorated with souvenirs from my past and a closed suitcase, ready to board a flight. My dad came out of the adjoining room and without a second glance caught hold of the other girl with the pink ribbon, took the suitcase and left.

I was left with my souvenirs and a muffled voice that didn’t speak when it ought to have.

My fingers reached to wipe away the ocean of gloom, but instead found the desert. I checked for lumps and a fluffed nose, but found none.

“Hi. You couldn’t resist Rebecca, could you?” I asked those eyes.

“Can anybody really?” They twinkled. “You like your coffee black, I assume?”

I smiled.

“Is that what you want again?” she screamed at my folly.

“Exactly. I am sorry,” I replied.

I could feel her leaving from the back door and on her way out, she smiled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Between the worlds

Between mind throbs and heart aches, there is a world where sanity prevails.

Between the small cats and large dogs, there is a world dominated by affection.

Between the muddy muck and the grey sky, there is a world where the lotus blooms.

Between sky jumps and scuba dives, there is a world of hikes and cycles.

Between your ego and my indifference, there is a world where our heart strings are attached.

Key lesson learnt: find the middle path; the world between the worlds.

Oh Kolkata!

1

Oh Kolkata, oh Kolkata!

How I sigh every time I think of your lanes, of your various moods, of the ‘aste ladij‘ of the bus conductors, of the kakimas and the didimas, the smell of cha on hot coal mingled with the smell of burnt tobacco. How you have been and will always remain a mystery to me. This is an ode to you- the only subject I can write a novel on:

I started off in Kolkata- my local Amsterdam, as a white blob called Diya. A few years later, I came back as Radhika- only to leave it again as a strange amalgamation of the two. My two year stay in this city might seem to all as ant years in a human’s lifespan- but to me it feels as a lifetime. The drastic change I underwent while here cannot be described in words- at least my vocabulary is insufficient to do so.

After a lot of brain wracking on my part; cups and cups of coffee; walking down the memory lane; I finally found a metaphor for this city—truth be told, I found plenty of them. The first thing that came to my mind was- a black hole- an oddity that sucks in every bit of a person, rips apart all of their ideals and give back pure bits and pieces of the soul. But this seemed very negative. Further down the road- I thought of it as a rehab center—people come in for a while; undergo agony and excruciating pain and leave a better person. This too was black. Then I thought of Kolkata as an oxymoron—a city which wants to progress yet is stuck in the past. Too clichéd? I know.

Finally the romantic in me came up with another metaphor which, I thought, fit best—my first love. Very like the first lover one has ever had, this city comes across as a much needed break in a person’s life. It is simply different- its many facets, one can never understand fully; its vibrance is blinding; the twist and turns of the its lanes- a labyrinth in a sane mind; its heat and humidity- suffocating and its mentality- claustrophobic.

My initial feeling towards my new love was one of hatred. But as days went by, I just got used to its vices and its way of life. The city moves at a caterpillar’s pace—viscous and slow. It took me some time to realize that this fact will never change and in trying to change it- I changed as a person. Here every day is a continuation of the previous- there is no new day.

Hence my hatred gave rise to resignation. This is how it is; no point trying to change it—I said to myself. I had come into the city as a ‘know it all’; I left it, a humbled soul. Every step of the way, my lover challenged me—it gave me a hard time; kicked me in the ass and helped me back on my feet. In short it gave me room to grow. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly face of the city. I will not try to fool anyone by saying that I take back only the good. Quite on the contrary, I take back the whole experience.

Kolkata taught me the value of hard work and humility. In the multitude of people, I found certain strange faces which later became family in the true sense. The city, I later found, has numerous layers to it—it starts with being cold and harsh and proceeds by giving you the warmth you have never felt before. It never gave up on me- yes, I personify the city. Why I do so, you will only be able to understand if you have lived here. It has a bit of everything to offer- art and culture for the intellectual; music for the harmonist; lights and glamour for the party freak; money for the businessman; solitude for the loner; bad habits for the indulgent and religion for the believer.

Kolkata is life personified. I might never go back to stay; but I know for a fact that the umbilical connection is there to stay for life. Like the tough school master, Kolkata has made me able enough to face the world. 20 years down the line, I will still sigh with wonder whenever I hear this name. I am mesmerized and yes, I am finally in love with it- the purest of the loves- the ones which survive years of separation.

The vitruvian man

Oh vitruvian saint,

and the master of my heart,

how your sight makes me faint,

how through me your arrows dart.

 

I have often wondered which God made you,

the secret that is your erudite bones,

how at dawn you fall like the dew,

and rise at dusk like the resonant tone.

 

To see you chant Chaucer in your sleep,

and recite the periodic table to your kids,

I fall in love with you deep.

Alas! She has already called her dibs.

 

Your beauty and her grace go hand in hand,

And i am left here standing alone in the strand.

 

 

The penpal

I have an image for you;

One among many.

The rain drops and the coffee cup;

the grey sky and the wooden pane.

 

The parchment and the smudged ink stared at me,

“The end,” it said.

No clue as to why, what, where.

Just a tasteless goodbye.

 

3 years had been a long time;

It felt like decades or more.

But all it took was two words;

Was it so easy to let go?

 

I still remember the day we sang with words;

the day we laughed with the happy hand;

the day we cried with tear stains on paper;

the day we argued with drops of ink.

 

It was Moscow versus New Jersey;

Dostoevsky versus Bukowski;

Anna Karenina versus Dominique;

The fog versus the sun.

 

Separated by two seas and an ocean,

It never really mattered who looked like what,

or what color suited who,

or how one ate.

 

we lived by our words and words were our world;

but it was words that killed at last.

One article and one noun.

The end.