To the little girl who was afraid of the sea

When you were six, you hardly ever spoke. When in the company of strangers, you would hide behind my back and hold on to my shirt. When you were eleven we went to the sea and you were scared of how the waves splashed against the shore. You were terrified of the sound and smell of the water. You held on to my hand and refused to go anywhere near the it.

When you were five, we went on our first flight together. You were so shy that whenever any passer by tried to talk to you, you would squeeze my hand in a death grip. The nights they fought, we would lie close together on the bed holding each other while we shed tears.

Now you have grown up and I know are a strong independent woman. You were always the brains of the family and you always tried to do good by everyone. You are my little over achiever who aims to please. But amidst the world of thick books and medals, I hope you don’t leave your childhood behind.

Don’t make the same mistake I made at your age. Do not aim to please. Enjoy the sunshine after sleepless nights of hanging out with friends; enjoy the hangovers and the love pangs; enjoy the school dramas and the world of movies. Get your fill of sleep because after eighteen, you can bid goodbye to that. Get your fill of your family because people grow old and apart with age. Explore territories that you haven’t before. Fail once, fail twice and fail again because failure is a better teacher than success.

Dream a dream and then change that dream the next day because now is when the possibilities are most. Fall in love and realise the difference between love and infatuation. Get a job at McDonalds and understand that there is a lot of value in the smile of the boy who is given a happy meal by his father.

Join a cause and fight for it because if not now, when? When they ask you, “what do you want to be?” tell them that you want to be happy. When they ask which university, tell them the name of all possible ones because there is no end to learning.

Learn that experience is more valued than mugging up facts and that you can always change what you want. There is always a new dawn after a bad day.

Dear kid, don’t be sorry for not knowing what you want to do and for wanting something no one wants to give. It is okay. You will fail. You must fail. But you will come out of it shining, just like the time you boarded the plane on your own and made friends with the other passengers.

If a shy little kid could become a confident woman, there is nothing in this world you can’t do. I wish you knew how proud I was of you and I wish I could be the one you had your first smoke with and told all your secrets to.

But alas! It is what it is. All I know for a fact is that I will always watch over you even if it is from behind a screen.

Advertisements

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?

Bangalore or Bengaluru?

Bangalore Days was a wonderful movie. Especially so because just like the protagonists, I was also very excited with the prospect of moving to the city. As a starry eyed teenager, whenever I was told that there exists a city in the South which is bigger that Delhi, more cosmopolitan than Hyderabad and cleaner than Kolkata, I wanted to become a part of the hustle and bustle of this city.

Was Bangalore a revelation when I finally got here a few years later? In some ways yes. The cosmopolitan aspect of it was true. You could find both Punjabi uncles as well as loud Bengali aunties in the midst of Malayalis and Telegites. The Kannadigas were difficult to find though.

For a first timer, it comes across as too huge a city to fathom in a day or more. It’s too vast and too impersonal at some level. In the film Divya remarks that there is no one and nothing in the city that she can call her own.

That sentiment of alienation among the crowd of Majestic and Shivajinagar is very familiar to me. Everyone is too caught up in their own worlds to notice the other. However, after a series of dramatic events, DIvya, Kuttan and Arjun come to terms with the ways of the metropolitan.

For a conservative good boy like Kuttan it means being comfortable with walking on the side of road where a couple is kissing. For Arjun, that means learning the importance of a career and establishing one self.

The wanderer becomes the settler and the conservative becomes a liberal. It is a city where dreams come true. A place not restricted by traditions and customs as much as the rest of the country; yet a place which smells of culture.

Bengaluru is Bengaluru for some and Bangalore for others. It is the go between for some who are seeking a transformation from traditional living to modern living and vice versa.

The American girl that Kuttan ends up marrying is the example of how people come here seeking culture. That aspect of the film rings a bell.

But what the filmmaker missed was the traffic, the over-crowded BMTC buses that Arjun travelled on, the eve teasing that Divya could have faced when she came back home alone post classes and the judgmental glances of the neighbours when Kuttan stayed back at his girlfriend’s house.

However, it is imperative that one gives artistic freedom to the filmmaker.  Hence, keeping his perspective in mind, the film definitely did a good job in portraying the spirit of this vast, multifaceted city.

The Ghost- a girl’s best friend

It’s been a couple of months since she visited. It was very often initially- everyday almost, then it reduced to about twice a week and then she vanished for a month without leaving a trace of where she had gone. I missed her. I cannot lie. I missed her cold touch and her visions, as weird as it may sound.

Somewhere deep inside the mesh that is my heart, she felt like home. She was my constant and her being there meant that I still had feelings. She would make me dream reality when awake and she would spin stories from the remnant fabrics in my mind as I slept.

Who is she? She is my ghost- my friend, my past and my present. It was six months since I moved back home- the small apartment with more windows than doors that I call home. The morning of January 25th was grey with specks of black dispersed here and there. The golden had been replaced by the gloom and even the birds thought it safe to stick to their nests and not venture out far.

The cookie man across the street didn’t show up to lift the shutters off his store and the milk man seemed to be in a smoke induced haze of opium as he handed the milk packet. I knew she was coming even before I opened my eyes.

I had to prepare for her- make her a welcome feast and burn down certain documents in the archives of my head. I kept the drugs close at hand. Just in case…

As I opened my eyes, I saw her dark boring eyes just inches away from my face. She had the same paleness and was accompanied by the chill. When she saw me smile, her cracked lips extended into a full smile. Now, reader, you might get deterred by her features. It’s almost death like, but know this she is the part of me that is just naked emotions manifested in physical form.

Very silently without a whisper, she changed positions and rested her hand on my head. Her nails were half eaten and half chopped. But it didn’t matter.

I closed my eyes and I saw a little girl run towards a dog. The dog wagged its tail and welcomed the girl with licks. They seemed happy. The kid’s hair was tied into a ponytail and her frock was turquoise. Her laughter echoed in my ears making me smile.

The scene changed. The dog, now old and haggard lay on a steel table that seemed to have no space for emotions whatsoever. A woman, presumably the little girl now grown up, stood holding the dog’s hand with tears streaming down her face. Her long hair was tangled and hung around her like mist and her mascara poured down her cheeks along with the salt water.

It was time, the man in the white coat said. It was time indeed. She gave the dog one last look; there were tears in the dog’s eyes but they smiled none the less. She bent down, gave him one last kiss and watched the life ebb away from her only friend. She was all alone in the white room, holding on to the only piece of life that was hers and hers alone.

It was done.

After what seemed like an eternity, I was back in my bedroom with her by my side.

“Until next time,” she said as she faded away in the grey once more, not to return soon.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All that is not glamorous

“Did you take your meds?” the good doctor asked.

I sniffed over the phone and wiped away two drops of tears from my left eye before answering, “twice the double dose.”

“Okay.” She obviously didn’t approve of my choice of dealing with ‘stuff’.

“Can I take another of those?” I asked her. I didn’t care about what it did to my physical health….i was just concerned with the mental health bit. I needed the talking in my head to stop and the sleep to come. I needed peace and I didn’t want to hurt myself.

“No darling, you can get through this without the meds. I promise you.”

How many more promises did I need in my life right now? I was sick and tired of the pep talks and the ‘I know what you are going through’ talks. Every Time I mentioned my condition, I got a speech about ‘my uncle/brother/mother/best friend went through the same. You will come out a stronger person’ talks.

They all know how it is. They all have faced the same. I had a girl in school who wanted to get depressed. She thought it was cool. “Imagine people always at your beck and call….all the attention you would get. Wow I want that,” she would rant on.

At the age of 15 I wasn’t aware that that would be me one day. People constantly asking how I am doing and whether I am better; that gets old after a point in time. I just want to be left alone.

Right now, I feel like hiding in a corner somewhere beneath a desk. Corners protect me, even from myself. I wonder as I write this whether I should get an award for writing down my thoughts instead of sulking in some corner.

There is nothing glamorous about pain. Pain is excruciating and violent. Along with it comes its friends helplessness and no self worth. Today I am facing it, tomorrow you might. So please, for the love of God, don’t tell a depressed person to ‘just deal with it’ and ‘to control your mind’.

Instead hold them when they need and tell them it’s going to be okay; if not today then someday. Tell them it’s okay to feel the way they are feeling and this too shall pass.