Category Archives: Thoughts on things

On touch.

The thing about living largely on your own, without another adult in your home, is that you get the bed all to yourself. You can wake up looking like a platypus and the only thing you have to face is the mirror. Pretty much everything you do becomes a thing of freedom and joy. And yet, that freedom is something I suddenly have too much of.

For about five years now, it’s just the kids and I who have been living together. With kids around, the snuggles are quite a few. What’s more, however, is them bumping into you, them wanting to be picked up, them stepping on your toes shod in new shoes, their elbows digging into the soft flesh of your thighs, their feet on your faces, their heads crashing into your PMSing breasts, their grubby, food-hands on your arm, them clambering on your shoulders for a better view when all you’re trying to do is sit quietly in bed and find some peace. To some, that sounds romantic and sweet, and in all fairness, it is quite cute. I know I’ll miss it when they grow up and stop touching me so much. I started to wonder, though, why was I so conscious of their sense of utter claim over my body. Why, like most mothers, wasn’t I taking this for granted; in a sense why was I even thinking about it.

The answer came to me a couple of weeks ago, when my parents were visiting. My mum, mostly reticent about physical expressions of love, casually stroked my back. At any other moment in my 20s, that would probably have translated to me as a warm assurance of something she was thinking about. This time, however, that touch electrified me. It made me stop what I was doing and tell my mother, I like it when you touch me like that. As is my wont, I said it before I thought about it and the more I thought about it, the more absurd it sounded to me. That a little motherly touch like that would awake all my nerve endings. From there, thought was but a giddy spiral and things that I hadn’t thought about it years, or perhaps ever, emerged.

For someone who thrives on touch, who actively likes all forms of physical affection, I realise I haven’t had the comfort of touch in years. A quick hug these days has become like shaking hands, but sharing a hug with someone who genuinely loves you — as a friend, as a lover, in a filial way or in a fraternal way — has healing qualities that one cannot ignore. Holding hands with a woman when words are not enough, sitting in the crook of a man’s arm as you watch a film, being hugged by a caring, affectionate friend, feeling strength and love in that embrace — those things have come rarely and intermittently to me in five years. And I didn’t think about it till recently, when I realised each nerve ending in my body was screaming to be touched, to be told in more than words that someone cares enough and likes you enough to hold your hand, kiss your cheek, ruffle your hair, and not just get into your pants.

I argue, then, with myself, as I am prone to doing. Isn’t the touch of my kids enough? After all, I am always cuddling them, kissing them, holding them, touching them in a sense that is complete and natural. They reciprocate too. Little imprints of wet tiny lips stay on my cheek for hours after I’ve had a kiss. And what kisses they are: the kids put everything into them, their entire body arches up into mine, and they pour every minute of their existence thus far into kissing me, hugging me. That should be enough, I think, and yet I find it isn’t. I cannot understand why it is so, but I know it isn’t.

I do not miss the sexual touch at all. In fact, I miss it least of all. There is warmth and comfort in that, no doubt, but I don’t find its lack big enough in my life to go looking for it. A loving hug, hell I’ll walk miles for it. I lose words sometimes, I am severely limited by the fact that I can only think in two languages, neither of them my official mother tongue. I find English severely limiting when I want to express the overflow of love I feel for some people. I find it frustrating that I can’t say anything beyond I love you so much my heart feels like it’s drowning and bursting at the same time. In a non-platonic relationship, that feeling is easy to translate. But in a friendship that’s pure and simple about love, what does one do? Invariably, then, I express with my body and skin. My skin that revolts belonging to the rest of me and rises up in a life of its own, my arms that love hugs and being filled up with the form of someone I love.

In moments of intensity, I observe my skin like a layer of ghost. It separates from the rest of me and between itself and the next layer of flesh forms a raging, roiling river of energy. It lifts in a blue, restless wave, crashing against itself because it has nowhere to go but back in the channel formed between my skin and flesh. I know this energy is calling out for soothing. I know this cold fire that my skin is on is willing to be doused, but all around me, most times, is the freedom of space, and air and the wind. Too much of everything.

On Innocence.

Have you seen a summer frangipani. One that blooms just after spring? It is a miracle of form and life sciences. It sheds all its leaves. Patiently, without a hint of emotion, taking off every single leaf that it wore through the year. Unabashedly displaying its anorexic structure. Strong in places. Knobbly in some, lean, accusing and aspiring in others. You wonder why it would stand still like this, shorn of its natural baggage, why it would last skeleton-alone, and then you see at the tips of its giant finger-like accusation, bunches of furiously blushing flowers. Fragrant and bold, and yet under that exhibitionism, a blush that is hesitant, stopping at half a petal. The waxen, flagrant frangipani. That is innocence.

*****

Watch with the sun in your eyes, a little girl of three. Four, maybe. Not quite a baby but not quite grown enough for the word to be inappropriate. Watch as she climbs with uncoordinated hands and legs up a slide, completely graceless, completely serene. She is unaware, and sweetly uncaring, of the impatient kids who queue up behind her. There’s a mini storm brewing behind her of children’s bursting, cyclic energy waiting to explode at the top where they let go, and plummet gleefully on the slide. There’s queue of scorn and good upbringing behind her, a temptation to push her aside, even over, maybe. A serpent of impatience and cruelty waiting just so that she is done with her slow turn on her hands and they can all have their quick thrill.

The girl climbs on, unaware what’s going on behind her, body bending to the demands of the ladder that she just cannot tame under her wayward hands and legs. Her face shows no fear, only a heartbreaking earnestness towards her task. She knows not that other children do it better than her. That those behind her are like her in size, shape, age and impatience. She knows not that she will not have their empathy. Her foot slips. There’s a barely-suppressed groan from behind her, as the serpent gets ready to strike with the venom of unkind words, the kind you find only in playgrounds of children. But she’s a star. She has not let that hurry her into climbing like it would an adult. She climbs only like she knows how. And suddenly, just when the snake-kids behind her are at snapping point, she is at the top. The sun is setting and you can’t see her face. Only the glorious silhouette she’s become, the gold of a setting sun tattooing its gentle fire all around her little form, trying to confine her in its soft-filter picturesqueness. Except the sunlight didn’t account for her hair; it’s a mess and plays with the breeze, collecting the sun’s fire from her outline and sending it away in waves from the top of her head, like a well-meaning baby Medusa of light.

She’s up there and because her face is hidden in the light, you can only imagine her smile, the gently raised cheekbones of her pure face the only clue. A smile that comes from anticipating that cold sweep to the earth, releasing every little fear and embarrassment she boldly hid in her heart. In that brilliant moment, she starts to sit down and the summer cotton of her frock billows all around her in a perfect umbrella. The breeze collaborates with her victory climb and the umbrella is a poster for all that is innocent about her. Despite it being there only for a second, because it is there only for a second before she sits down, and decides to claim fruit of her journey by taking a tiny, exciting ride down, down, down to the earth. She, as the axis of her one-second umbrella, too is innocence.

*****

My grandmother, a woman of love, humour, music, bad teeth and temper lost most control of her arms and legs due to a particularly bad case of spondylosis. In time, she was confined to her bed and her room. She ate there, watched tv there, read books there. She saw visitors there. She ate her apple there. Drank her coffee there.

Her skin was smooth, like a tautly-stretched, moist balloon once it has burst. When she would eat something that needed to be picked up with her hands, I would watch her. Her hand made a slow, heavy, waving descent to the bowl she intended to pick up her piece of apple, or orange, maybe banana, from. When it touched the bowl, it would rest. A limb in thought. Her fingers with taut, smooth, honey skin would stretch like a scared little ET and try to pick up a piece of fruit. The sneaky old piece would shift just when she got a grip on it, leaving a minuscule pool of nectar in is place. Her hand would try again, lifting like a dumb giant and dropping back into the bowl. My grandmother had no will against this recalcitrant limb. The fruit would behave itself this time, recognising the limitations of the bowl it was in. Yet, elfin by nature, it would slip out again to hide between other pieces of fruit. Third time lucky. She would have the fruit between her exquisitely awkward fingers and the slow rise to her mouth would start. Sometimes, she won, some times the piece of fruit, finding its freedom in the folds of her starched upper cloth. The days she won, I watched her gnawing slowly, laboriously at her fruit and when she had a few satiating bites of it, she would turn to me a give me a big smile. I have never seen anything more innocent.

*****
Sometimes you look into the mirror and all you see is everything you’ve become. The faces you put on for people, all you. Different parts of you. Even when you cry, it’s a face. One that you gaze at through your pain, despite your pain to look for aesthetics. Are you beautiful when you cry. Those days when you smile at your reflection and you can’t see anything right with it, those days you make faces like you were a child, tongue out, nostrils flared; indelicate, ugly and utterly free. Suddenly, one day, there’s no face to put on, no tears to wipe delicately, no bad teeth to look at you smile, no faces to make, and you’ve had enough sleep, you’ve eaten well and there’s nothing that happened the day whole day that has made it exciting. An absence of the mean, a presence of the cognisant. You are perfectly ordinary. And that does not make you sad. Look again in that mirror. Because, that too, is innocence.

On regret

I was just about to go to bed tonight, way past the time I should have been asleep , when on my twitter feed i saw something from @advicetowriters. A quote.

“Have regrets. They are fuel. On the page they flare into desire.” — Geoff Dyer.

I looked it at for a full two minutes before admitting to the world that I too think regret is a good thing. Not just good but absolutely necessary. Ten years ago I used to be a girl full of optimism. I believed no matter how badly your day was going, the fact that you were alive was enough to be rapturous about. Exactly. I used to be that hugely irritating morning person who was chirpy for absolutely no reason. Now, at 33, I can safely say I’ve done more things to be regretful about that most people have. But for a whole decade, I spouted false optimism, which I later believed because I said it so many times, that I didn’t regret a thing.

The truth of it, however, was that the thing that doesn’t allow you to lie to yourself, the voice you want to suppress with sunshine and mindless joy kept telling me that I indeed had regrets. Later, as I became less sunshiny and more morose, I wondered, no not just wondered, but was baffled by people when they said they didn’t have any regrets. I read in so many places, I heard so many say the saddest thing they would hear from themselves or anyone else was that they had regrets. I used to wonder and be awed at these perfect, bereft lives they lived that didn’t give them the gift of regret. Or maybe their lives weren’t perfect, maybe it was that their attitudes were perfect, bereft.

So let me tell you, I have many a regret. From the time I finished school and started college, there’s a string of regrets, beautiful and fragrant like a garland of desert jasmine. Do they make me sad? Of course, some of them do. Like having gotten married at 22 the first time. Do they make me feel foolish? Yep. I wish I had spent many, many, many more hours in the college library instead of running off after college to spend time with the boyfriend. Do they embarrass me? Of course. I will leave out examples of this one, thank you. Would I do things differently if I were given the chance? Absolutely yes, even though it is widely accepted that if you were allowed to live your life once over, you’d screw the same things up in precisely the same way. Which is exactly why you must, absolutely must have regrets.

For me, regret is precious. Something wrapped in blue box, under layers of tissue; crystalline and delicately coloured. Every time you turn it a couple of degrees, the light hits it in a completely different way, opening up another world in that little cosmos of crystal. Some are bright embarrassing shades of purple, and yet others are a love-sick yellow. Hold it this way and that, and each has a story, a colour that shines soft and dim.

Regret is exquisite. It tells of being so crazily in love that you promised yourself to someone who asked, “If I were to survive on alms, would you still be by my side?” Regret reminds you of the strength of conviction with which you said, “What a stupid question. Of course yes.” Regret has a voice and it is yours when you were 25 years old, having found the man of your dreams at that moment in time.

Regret tells you of the time when the most inspiring teacher you’ve ever had is trying to hone your brilliance but you’re busy running away in the afternoon to neck with and fondle the first man you ever fell in love with. Regret reminds of the 22 year old who was all bursting with sweet innocence that the world was hers to pin in her long hair and do with it as she pleased. Regret, here, becomes the bitter seed of a lemon that you bite into unwittingly, while taking a long sip of the perfect lemonade.

Regret is surprise, regret is cunning, regret is everlasting love, regret is moving on. Regret, sometimes, if you are wise, helps you make new mistakes. At others times, regret is music. You’re addicted to making the same mistakes all over again, after which you sit like a child among a ton of toys, confused, wondering what part of play went wrong. Regret is the opportunity you sent on its way, without thinking you were good enough to make use of it. Regret is many things. But most of all, regret is the strand of golden, shining memory that slaps your hand the minute you try to colour over the truth with peacock blue, forest green and sunshine yellow crayola. Regret has a way of keeping wounds alive, never healing so that you accept new wounds instead of lathering the existing wound with salt.

If I were to put down my biggest regret, it would be that I never knew what I wanted until it was too late. Does that make me unhappy? No. What it does is allow me to build new castles in the air, allows me to scan my soul for answers no matter how hard they are. Do I always succeed? No. Do regrets make me cry? Never. Sometimes, I even smile at the folly of youth and sometimes kick myself and tell myself, look ahead. Don’t look back. It works sometimes and at other times, I am tempted to peek into the past, to see if I am collecting new regrets or old. Sometimes, I can’t tell.

On love

I have never explored love other than by flippantly looking at the confusing, often foolish concept of a happily ever-after in my poetry. If there’s one thing I know, love shouldn’t hurt. But it does because it is inextricably linked with a thing or a person. And it shouldn’t be. But then, if it isn’t, how is it possible that the object of your love, your intense passion, will know that he is one of a kind, that you love him because of him, and not because you have love in your heart, in your soul. If your love is One, if the way you love the important people in your life with the same passion that you love the tree, how will they know how much you love them? How will the tree know what your love means? Is this all-encompassing love a cowards theory for not taking risks, for not opening oneself to the exquisite pain of being hurt by the one you love? If love should not hurt, then you need to love everything and everyone the same way, equally. Because then you aren’t loving someone’s strength and their core, you’re loving the life force that runs through each of us ever created.
These days, having loved painfully, never having lost (except to death), it is this that I am after. Loving without liking. Loving without loving one thing or another. Loving in its anaesthetic entirety. But I fear, if I loved like that, then I’ll forgive anything – of myself first, and then of others. That I will always overlook broken promises and I will break them too. That despite knowing that I can’t be the most important thing in someone’s life, I’ll still want to be. I fear that the way I trust, like a waterfall which does not stop for a second, does not hesitate for a breath before crashing on the rocks below, will not change even though I know, little by little, the rocks are giving way and smoothening, eroding till there will be nothing left to crash on. And that one, day I too might be the rock that helplessly ceases to exist, leaving a void for the waterfall to move on to something else.  
For me, there’s only one way to love. With utter and complete abandon. Without brakes. Without ever thinking about the scars that I already wear. Proudly, gently, I might add. Without a thought to the break that will eventually come. I cannot think of another way. If you’ve been in a storm that has drenched you right down to your most intimate thought, if you’ve watched a feather falling without any control over its drift, if you’ve heard music that snatches your soul from you, that is so compelling it practically composed itself, then you’ll know what I love like. I don’t hold back, I am incapable of it. While I try and not project all that I feel on the object of my affection, I feel the pulse of that love day in and day out. I shine with it. I live with it. If anyone’s every thought me even minutely special, it is because of this love that I carry. It is that which shines through. It is that which makes me as vulnerable as the soft caterpillar that I can crush before I finish saying caterpillar. I cannot be untrue to myself and love less. Or love differently. Anything else but the way I do it would be a travesty of the one emotion that I, in my infinite smallness, am utterly incapable of understanding but more than capable of living, breathing and feeling.
Can you take that love, my reader? Or would it suffocate you because you can’t reciprocate? Because, you see, that is my tragedy. Even as I love, even as I swear that I won’t ask for it, what I want – and as I say this, I give you the tenderest part of who I am – I want some of it back. I know, really know, that you can’t give me what I give you, because you are not me. But I want what is a bit of that core of you. I want that love that you treasure in your heart, the love that has no source but your own very soul; I want just a whiff of it, and if you are more than special, I want more than a whiff of it. But get it I must. Or else my love turns over, and hurts. And love, I realise, should not hurt. 

On a rainy, sleepless evening.

One would think as one would grow older you figure more things out and people become less of a mystery.
Not in my case. As I grow older, people and their ways puzzle me to no end. People will sign letters even though they don’t mean what is written in them. They’ll refuse to stand up to unfairness. They’ll have your best intentions at heart adn never be able to do anything about them. I don’t understand any of that. I just don’t.
*****

Possessiveness is always nice when you are beginning a relationship. And then you’re celebrating the third anniversary of the first time you kissed on a park bench and you realise the one reason you may not be entirely happy is because of that thing which gave you a thrill the first time – that one possessive statement.
*****

It’s painful to admit but I really want to experiment constantly with my life. I know I’ll be miserable, I know it’ll hurt and confuse and make me hide a part of me. But the temptation is SO great.
Experiments with my body.
Experiments with my mind. With people, with sex, with writing, with jobs, with exploration. I can’t seem to stop.
But then some bit of me also says it’s a choice I am making some where. Deep down. A choice to constantly choose excitement over stability and sensibility.
****

I hate it when people use words without knowing anything about them. Without respecting them.
Case in point: Arbid.
They can’t even get the spelling right.
*****

Bangalore is rainy. And yesterday everything looked wash clean. Headlights sparkled, the city was slick. Like a pretty girl out of the rain. Sexy.
And a little edgy as well because sometimes you couldn’t see where you were going.
I’ve always reacted to rain romantically. Perhaps because I lived most my life where life was not disrupted by rain. But now that I’ve been in Bombay, and now Bangalore rain is pretty annoying. Especially when I can’t find a hot pink translucent raincoat.
*****

Enough.