Twinge.

Have you ever paused in the middle of a footstep and felt an unbearable sadness creeping up from behind?

In the time it takes for you to place your foot on the ground to complete your stride the sadness falls instep, accompanying you till such time as it pleases. This sadness is transient yet its element of surprise is as consistent as the pain you’ll feel if a brick was thrown at you and did not miss the mark. It hurts.

You feel a twinge. The little bundle of His in your heart is strung like the chords of an old guitar being tested for a new melody. It quivers, scared it might be broken, or worse – out of tune.

You feel a twinge of acceptance. The sadness manages to catch you off guard but the crushing weight of a lonely existence feels familiar. Much like a tight embrace from a loved one which makes it difficult to breathe fully. Comforting in its inherent discomfort.

You feel a twinge. It is sudden, a pain smack in the middle of your consciousness, but not localised. It spills over from the dark, murky streams of subconscious thought.

Within five steps you realise—again—that the last few years have all been alone.

And you keep walking. It is but a twinge after all.

“Well I tried to repress it and I carried its crown
I reached out to undress it and love let me down
Love let me down…

Not That Girl.

In class tenth I bought a notebook. We all did. It was the ‘slam’ diary; blank pages meant to be filled by people who knew you or those whose opinion you cared about—mainly your crush.

This notebook of mine was passed around and almost everybody I knew wrote in it. If I did a word search, the most common would be ‘cool’ and ‘attitude’. Neither complements the other. They appear separately. The kind of thing you’d say as a euphemism for ‘I respect you but you’re a bit much.’

I did not mind it. I was the cool girl. I was the girl who knew more about cars but who also knew about fashion. I knew Eminem and Enrique. I had more friends buried in words than in real life. The only romance and love I got was from printed words. And that was okay. People who claimed to have crushes on me never confessed. “You’re intimidating,” they said.  I have never had a man confess his undying love to me and I doubt I ever will.

I have been in relationships. I have been in love. I have performed romantic gestures that would make Karan Johar cry and Nicholas Sparks weep into his wife’s lace handkerchief. I have songs for all stages of love by bands as obscure as Neptune’s fifth moon. Never has any of that happened to me. I have given my all yet have never had a man sweep me off my feet. One explanation I got for this was, “you’re cool.” Thanks mate.

I am simply not that girl.

I get the respect. I get the admiration. I get to hear the bro talk. I get them laughing. I get the debates.

I am not the one the guy sings the cheesy songs for or the one which makes Archies and Hallmark a success. I do not get teddy bears. I am not the girl a man will stare at, his worries and time forgotten. I will not make him feel manly, the delicate woman in need of protection. I do not look delicate and I cannot make him feel like a man. I am not prone to hysterics, so I won’t need your rationality. I will ask you questions about yourself, your emotions, your thoughts; questions that will be uncomfortable because they will make you think. I will never make you feel needed because I simply do not need you. I’ll want you but you will have to too.

And this will make you leave. Because to love me, you’ll have to bend too. And it is so much easier finding a woman who is easier to love. Someone who will make you happy and that alone. No one falls in love with ‘Ms. Attitude’ or ‘Ms. Sarcasm.’

They have said it. Saying and staying-after-saying are two very different things.  I am not the girl you’ll profess your love for at first sight or in the throes of infatuation.

But on most days it feels okay because someday someone – will not fall – but slowly walk towards loving me. You’ll say it with the earnestness of a child reciting the alphabet for the first time to a room full of elders. Measured and knowing. The words will be said confidently. They will be warm like the blanket you’ll let me hog on a cold winter night. We will appreciate what we have and recognise it to be the foundation on which lasting love is built on. I do not say this with pseudo stoicism.

I say this with dratted hope.

Peace.

“All I want is the taste that your lips allow.”

There is a certain unreal peace that blankets the world at 6 am. It is quiet.

Remnants of the night can be seen in the way clouds cling to the ground; not wanting to leave the surfaces that give them shape.

The knowledge of their impending and unavoidable departure makes the ground ache, it makes the clouds prolong each second. But they do not cling for there is peace.

The clouds– fast turning into wisps of the kisses shared–soar above to the skies they belong. The ground smiles because it knows the night will bring them back.

There is peace; the kind which envelops everything. The kind that makes mornings sane, the coffee tasty and the first sunbeam feel like a farewell kiss from the night’s clouds for the ground it bid goodbye–holding promise until the next meet.

Big Red Flowers.

bombax-ceiba-flowers

We were posted at Bangalore, now the weirdly spelled Bengaluru, in 1998. The last year of me being the only apple of my parents’ eyes.

I studied in a convent school – St.Louid’s. Class KG. The walk from my home to the bus-stop was almost a kilometre. Beautiful trees lined the roads on one side and houses on the other. The narrow lane was covered with fallen leaves and big red flowers, the petals of which were velvety like the cheeks of a new-born baby.

My teacher was Miss Rosebud. I always brought her a flower each day. The only teacher I have done this for. She was the only teacher in the army of unpleasant nuns. The ritual made us both smile. It helped that my father was the then lawn in-charge at the sprawling mess. The flowers were fresh and more importantly, they were free.

I had always wanted to give Miss Rosebud, who was my only and favourite teacher, one of those big red flowers from those big trees. The flowers looked exotic, much like my teacher’s name.

I never could. Once the flower fell from the tree on the coarse gravel it blackened as quickly as the burning white end of a cigarette.

Miss Rosebud couldn’t be given a rotten offering.

The other impediment to successfully procuring one of these velvety delights was a large drain separating the road from the trees. The width of the drain exceeded my entire length. It was mission impossible. My mother used to walk me till the bus-stop and I didn’t dare ask her to take the leap of faith on my behalf. I could not ask my father either. His roses would’ve gotten offended. And thus our feet would squish the bulbous flower parts every morning and afternoon. The flowers on the branches perched high above us: beautiful, pristine and unattainable.

My grandparents came to visit us. The duty of dropping and collecting me from the bus-stop went to my grandfather. He gladly accepted. This is what we did, my grandfather and I. We took long walks. Our steps would begin uncoordinated but one anecdote later we were in sync, both in gait and thoughts. He would talk to me about books, make-up poems about flying camels and falling men and always, always had candy. It was our tradition since the time I learnt walking. During our walk back home in the afternoon I told him about the flower problem.

The next morning I gave Miss Rosebud a gigantic red flower. It looked like a lobster with measles.

‘It is beautiful.’

‘I know.’

And I really did.

Dressing Rooms.

A lot can be told about a man if one observes his behaviour outside a dressing room. A lot more is told by observing how he reacts when the door opens.

A woman takes to the dressing room three types of clothes:

1. Clothes she knows she will fit in and hence buy

2. Clothes she hopes she will fit in but probably won’t

3. Clothes she thinks will make her look sexy but she cannot pull them off

These are regular women. Women who see rolls of imaginary flab, a few extra pounds and maybe  phantom limbs and an extra head. They see freckles and pimples on their skin, an extra grey hair and wrinkles formed because of worrying. Some see perfection, some.

The man sits/stands outside.

The clothes are tried on. The layers stripped bare. The new outfit worn. A twirl, a sideways glance, a pout followed by a sneaky selfie. The first category of clothes is winnowed by price, usability and repeatability.

The man browses the internet. Or was that ‘2048’, the game?

Round 2 begins. This is tricky. There is a thin line between thinking ‘you-can-fit-in-without-tearing-it’ and ‘stop-omg-it-is-torn’. The woman obviously believes the latter. Prevention is better than a furore. This pile is discarded as hastily as determined plans for weight loss are hatched.

The man taps his foot, yawns and looks up from the screen hoping to see the door opening.

Time for type 3. The dress fits. It looks stunningly good. Or does it? Of course it doesn’t? But, it does! At that one party where the lights are dim or maybe for the next date? Is it expensive? Holy fuck, it is. Let’s leave it. Second opinion? Important decisions are made not just in court rooms but dressing rooms as well.

The door opens. The man looks up. His opinion is needed?

This is when you observe.

The man may not know the difference between colours, prints and materials but he should know better than to give a cursory glance, mumble a non-committal response and admire his reflection in the mirror you spent minutes agonising in front of.

Sympathy and brownie points for accompanying you be damned.

404: Epiphany Not Found.

It is 8 pm.

You walk away from your college building, straightening your shoulders as the dreary weight of misery lessens with each step towards the bus stop. You wrap your muffler around you in tight coils so that not one particle of the blasting cold wind touches your delicate skin. It still does. Damn, the shivers.

The conversation between your friends is a distant drone in the background of your consciousness. It merges with the ambient sound of traffic. Horn, conversation, insert absent-minded laugh, the unbridled sound of a Royal Enfield. You say your goodnight turning away before hearing their response. You  search for a vacant rickshaw. On spotting one you ask him politely whether or not he shall take you to the station. He acquiesces, quotes his exorbitant winter season special rate and you haul your self. The seat is warmed by the puller’s ass, thank god for small pleasures.

Your earphones are plugged in before his first pedal. Ha ha, LOL. No they aren’t. They are as tangled as you imagine your legs to be with your imaginary lover. After much cursing you manage to untangle them and finally play a song. Half a kilometre has been covered by the grunting rickshaw puller. The wind turns your bones into beautiful formations of ice. You check to see if your fingers still work because the phone’s screen cannot register your cold touch. Phones much like humans need warmth. The problem is the phone gets some, you don’t.

You’ve settled in your 38 degree inclined red seat. One hand under your butt for warmth, the other clings on to the phone while the fingers stretch like over-zealous gymnasts at Olympics. One typo free message and the gold is yours. And then there is a mighty jerk.

Time freezes.

Your heart is replaced by that of a hummingbird’s and the periphery of your eyeball notices a car centimetres away from your leg. It all happened too fast. And hello, the background music was not right. You realise you could have fallen off your red seat and died. Your sub-conscious may scoff this off as melodrama but you shut it out. You wait for your epiphany. The mantra of life, your reel of happy sepia-toned memories, the people you love the most, last vestiges of worldly wisdom, anything. Well, the brain’s got nothing.

Fuck.

That is all it could manage. The rickshaw puller starts pedalling away again. He is Akshay Kumar’s stuntman from Chandni Chowk. You realise nothing life altering happened and curse him in a language befitting inebriated hungry truck drivers functioning on one hour of sleep. The rickshaw puller doesn’t give a damn. He is Akshay Kumar’s go-to guy.

Your heart beat is back to normal. Your lazy body did not cough up much adrenaline, let alone any memories.

Maybe that is your epiphany: you’re lazy.

Of Boxes and Shapes.

If you got your first computer somewhere between 1999-2002, you’d recollect a box-like screen saver which changed shapes.

It was a perfectly medium-sized, multi-coloured cube. Its edges faded to softness only to spin around and become clearly defined again. The cube bounced off from one end of the screen to the other, twirling like a dancer whose costume was unravelling to reveal a different costume underneath.

Now imagine this screen saver as somebody’s personality. Transient. Soft one moment, hard the next. No, there is no innuendo here.

There is so much shape-shifting, personality-shifting rather, that one forgets what the box originally was.

At one time the cube becomes a circle; forgetting what its soul looked like while changing shape.

But somewhere deep down it always remains what it was. Hidden not forgotten.