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Young With Scabby Knees

Whether we be old or bald.

Mark Twain said

‘The fear of death follows from the fear of life.’

 

Page 18, Times of India
October 12, 2017

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Shards.

The noise of the rattling window panes keeps me awake at night. The winds are howling outside like the sound of an engine revving, and the rain is pounding away relentlessly like it is the last time water meets earth from above. The sun will soon rise and, I wonder whether the fragile window panes will survive and how in the morning their shards will lie.

Don DeLillo said

‘There is a deep narrative structure to terrorist acts, and they infiltrate and alter consciousness in ways that writers used to aspire to.’

 

Page 12, Times of India
September 2, 2017

Durga.

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Atheist or not, I can never shake off the feeling of reverence towards the sky that invariably creeps in at 4am on Mahalaya. As a child, I used to think Durga rode across the sky with her children to return home. A part of me still thinks so. A part of me still wishes that she’d slay the devil and fix all that is wrong with the world.

.

.

|| রূপং দেহি জয়ং দেহি যশো দেহি দ্বিষো জহি ||

Much ado.

Stop.

Think.

Why is there much ado about almost nothing?

Why are you sparing so many fucks for the inconsequential?

Stop.

Think.

When did you start giving so many fucks? Sigh. I started giving a fuck when I started accumulating hate. I let hate fester in my heart, poison it. I only noticed it last night for the first time, when reading.

The book’s called The Five People You Meet In Heaven. It isn’t much by way of a book but I connected with it immediately because the character’s stuck up too. The story is about the five lessons he learns after he dies and has the chance in heaven to revisit five events from his life.

We keep all this hate inside us, often without realising it: hate towards the universe, hate towards what’s unfair; hate towards the unfulfilled, the unrequited and the unnoticed; hate towards ourselves and our choices – and to what end?

I found the piece that was missing from the jigsaw puzzle story that is my life. I never learnt to let go of things, only learnt to let them be. In a way, I’ve become the very things I detest so much. I wrap my head around the image of who I think I am so tight that I don’t realise the extent to which what I do is different from what I think.

I figuratively froze for a few minutes with the half read book between my fingers, realising that I’ve to forgive to forget, that I’m too hard on some things and some people, invariably making a hot mess of something perfectly simple. Over-thinking transforms into hateful behaviour fairly quickly if you aren’t aware of where to pull the brakes.

Words can only be benefitted from, when what you mean is what you say. If I’ve been wrong all along in choosing the meaning of my words, what the hell have I even been saying?

Quartered.

I wonder if, sometimes, we’re too early in assigning a work of fiction to the children’s section. We tag it as a Timeless Classic, nevertheless it remains a Timeless Children’s Classic.

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Upon a friend’s insistence, I read a colourfully illustrated Charlotte’s Web and by the end of it, I realised that the book could very well be for adults too. It led me to think that Charlotte’s Web and all such works of fiction are only masquerading as books for the young.

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Charlotte’s Web finishes on a deeply meaningful sentence: It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. 

I’m willing to bet that the line would not have had any major impact on me if I had read it at a pre-pubescent age but now, endowed with the experience that a decade of life brings, this sentence strongly resonates with me. There are many such wise sentences scattered throughout the text that the young would not pay attention to, but the adults – the adults would be forced to survey its deeper meaning.

It is in the nature of fiction to be interpreted differently by its reader (let alone all readers – each with a varied life experience) depending on the point in her life that she reads it. Every time I read Harry Potter, I learn something new, I understanding something that until then was unknown to me.

The larger point that I wish to make, however, is do books really need to be quartered and classified? 

Neil Gaiman summarises my feelings perfectly in his introduction to his book Trigger Warning. An excerpt is as follows:

There are things that upset us. That’s not quite what we’re talking about here, though. I’m thinking about those images or words or ideas that drop like trapdoors beneath us, throwing us out of our safe, sane world into a place much more dark and less welcoming. Our hearts skip a ratatat drumbeat in our chests, and we fight for breath. Blood retreats from our faces and our fingers, leaving us pale and gasping and shocked.

And what we learn about ourselves in those moments, where the trigger has been squeezed, is this: the past is not dead. There are things that wait for us, patiently, in the dark corridors of our lives. We think we have moved on, put them out of mind, left them to desiccate and shrivel and blow away; but we are wrong. They have been waiting there in the darkness, working out, practicing their most vicious blows, their sharp hard thoughtless punches into the gut, killing time until we came back that way.

The monsters in our cupboards and our minds are always there in the darkness, like mould beneath the floorboards and behind the wallpaper, and there is so much darkness, an inexhaustible supply of darkness. The universe is amply supplied with night.

What do we need to be warned about? We each have our little triggers.

I first encountered the phrase “trigger warning on the Internet, where it existed primarily to warn people of links to images or ideas that could upset them and trigger flashbacks or anxiety or terror, in order that the images or ideas could be filtered out of a feed, or that the person reading could be mentally prepared before encountering them.

I was fascinated when I learned that trigger warnings had crossed the divide from the Internet to the world of things you could touch. Several colleges, it was announced, were considering putting trigger warnings on works of literature, art or film, to warn students of what was waiting for them, an idea that I found myself simultaneously warming to (of course you want to let people who may be distressed that this might distress them) while at the same time being deeply troubled by it: when I wrote Sandman and it was being published as a monthly comic, it had a warning on each issue, telling the world it was Suggested for Mature Readers, which I thought was wise. It told potential readers that this was not a children’s comic and it might contain images or ideas that could be troubling, and also suggests that if you are mature (whatever that happens to means) you are on your own. As for what they would find that might disturb them, or shake them, or make them think something they had never thought before, I felt that that was their own look out. We are mature, we decide what we read or do not read.

But so much of what we read as adults should be read, I think, with no warnings or alerts beyond, perhaps: we need to find out what fiction is, what it means, to us, an experience that is going to be unlike anyone else’s experience of the story.

We build the stories in our heads. We take words, and we give them power, and we look out through other eyes, and we see, and experience, what they see. I wonder, Are fictions safe places? And then I ask myself, Should they be safe places? There are stories I read as a child I wished, once I had read them, that I had never encountered, because I was not ready for them and they upset me: stories which contained helplessness, in which people were embarrassed, or mutilated, in which adults were made vulnerable and parents could be of no assistance. They troubled me and haunted my nightmares and my daydreams, worried and upset me on profound levels, but they also taught me that, if I was going to read fiction, sometimes I would only know what my comfort zone was by leaving it; and now, as an adult, I would not erase the experience of having read them if I could.

There are still things that profoundly upset me when I encounter them, whether it’s on the Web or the word or in the world. They never get easier, never stop my heart from trip-trapping, never let me escape, this time, unscathed. But they teach me things, and they open my eyes, and if they hurt, they hurt in ways that make me think and grow and change.

kith + kin.

They broke your heart, I think.
Mine too, I know.
I saw it coming and yet, I let it shatter, my heart.

Perhaps I was hopeful, or was it masochism?

I wonder if you did too: see it coming.
I’m healing.
I pray you have too.
I don’t know if happy endings exist,
if a place where I can go exists,
but I pray I never stop to find out.

No matter the wreckage they left behind for you to heal, and to make art out of.

“It is not your fault that you don’t assume the worst in people. People are at fault when they let you down; you are not at fault for not anticipating that they will let you down,” as a wise friend tells me often.

Rum.

I look at his fingers as they handed me a drink; they were bony thin, much like the rest of him. When not handling drinks, those fingers spent time scratching the crop of beard that he’d allowed to grow unfettered on his face.

I swallow the rum in three long gulps, unevenly paced.

I look at his fingers cradling a pen, plotting equations between the finite and infinite in one breath. He says the logic is flawed and I believe him because it is. He steps into a discourse on the theory of everything, stopping mid-sentence ever so often, stretched thin between confidence and the lack of it within him.

I lie on the floor imagining the arithmetic unfolding in psychedelic patterns on the white ceiling.

I look at his eyes, closed as they are, entranced by the music. He does not respond as I call him out because he’s lost in the one without us. We leave the room for a smoke, a view of the receding monsoon’s full moon sky and another stutter-ridden discourse.

I smoke only by way of three drags, each longer and slower than the one before.

Swan song.

We were
closet writers,
YOLO travellers
and capricious lovers.

Did you know they looked for us?
They looked and found none of our remains;
our ashes had flown away at the speed of the carefree wind
when our words did not.

We were
unwritten stories,
war-ridden skies,
and broken promises.

Did you know they looked for us?
They looked and found none of our remains;
our ashes had flown away to the place of stars, rain and no name
where our words did not.

We were
the silence in a library,
the purple twilight
and the coalition of feet.

Did you know they looked for us?
They looked and found none of our remains;
our ashes had flown away from the currency of lies
when our words did not.

We were really handsome
most of the time,
wonderful silver and gold plumage.
“Fascinating creatures, phoenixes.”
It’s a shame they looked for us
on burning day.

But in the place of stars, rain and no name,
did rise newborn birds with wings,
ugly as they were,
to fly
at the speed of the carefree wind
and to write
the truth as it comes.
It’s a shame we did not look for us
on burning day.

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Memorabilia.

Linkin Park, you life saver. Damn it!

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Back when such a thing as having a favourite band existed and everyone quoted The Beatles, Pink Floyd and Metallica to be their choices, I was an unapologetic Linkin Park fan. I was a Linkin Park snob, priding myself in knowing that the band was so much more than In The End and Numb. I knew their albums backwards and forwards. Hell, I knew their solo projects backwards and forwards. Chorusing ‘Somehow I got caught up in between/ Between my pride and my promise/ Between my lies and how the truth gets in the way/ And things I want to say to you get lost before they come/ The only thing that’s worse than one is none’, Chester Bennington and Mike Shinoda fixed so many of my bad days. I would foolishly pride in the coincidence that Chester Bennington’s birthday only a day before mine. I remember saving every single paisa of pocket money so that I could afford their then releasing album A Thousand​ Suns, instead of having to resort to piracy. How quickly paraphernalia turns into memorabilia.

Steal.

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The moon stares at me as I stare at it. It hangs like a quartered orange high in the sky that is a strange, luminescent blue; and the clouds are something your dreams are made with. A lone star fights a losing battle. Dazed, I wonder aloud to myself: Let’s steal the monsoon sky.

Oh please, let’s steal the monsoon sky. I repeat.

lost + found

Her warm smile, the evidence to her soul, shines and stills her restless eyes. Her fingers, the deputies to her artistry, are cold and heavy.

Her skin, the wrappings to her bones, is lost in a tangle of folds. Her life, the forerunner to mine, finds that it ebbs away from him close.

Roger Federer will guide you home & belief will fix you.

Semi-final v/s Tomas Berdych; July 14, 2017

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My insides felt dishevelled tonight.

As I watched Roger Federer point his index finger and his racquet towards the sky today in celebration of his triumph over his opponent in the semi-finals of the world’s greatest tennis competition, I felt a tad befuddled. The person who steam-rolled Tomas Berdych in straight sets was aggressive, merciless, attacking and visibly powerful, devoid of the grace and composure that is enchantingly unique to Roger Federer. To think that I knew every move of the legend as well as the back of my hand was, as proved tonight, folly. I learnt that he could still surprise me, after all this time. I suppose there’s a life lesson hidden in there somewhere.

Perhaps it was my own disbelief at the fact that he made it this far, defeating every single odd that stood in his path? I can barely believe this is happening. My potential happiness is eclipsed by my state of disbelief and shock. How did this happen? Five years of a Grand Slam drought to end so phenomenally well? How did I spend these five years, watching him lose again and again? I shudder at the complementary set of ‘what if(s)’.

I feel like time has turned back to ten years ago. Surely this isn’t 2017 and Federer isn’t 35-going-on-36?

Fun fact: He’s never retired from a match, and last year was the first time in his extraordinary career that he took time off the playing season. Then, I’d thought the world was coming to an end and that he would never play again. Oh how wrong I was and how fucking glad am I that I was!

Immediately prior to taking time off, when Roger crashed out of the Wimbledon semi final, miserably losing from a winning position against Milos Raonic, failing to convert so many opportunities, I remember darting out of the bar I was watching the match in – well before the match ended. The second the match entered the fifth set, I knew he was done for, and I left. I knew him like the back of my hand and I knew he was done for. I was crying because I was angry, because he had so much more to give to tennis. I wish to go back to that day, outside that bar, when I’d sat on the footpath hugging myself, hands turning cold, and tell myself that it’s all going to be okay. He’s going to win an 18th and then another one (the holy grail of tennis). I wish I could tell myself that he’s going to steamroll Raonic, among others, and make Wimbledon matches seem like an exhibition tournament. Vindication will arrive in due time.

Final v/s Marin Cilic; July 16, 2017

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The win was clinical and so very one-sided. Anti-climactic? Yes. I’d been conditioned to expect roller-coasters. The Australian Open victory echoes off the walls even today. Wimbledon was a cakewalk in comparison. I feel only a fraction of the overwhelmed feelings that I felt six months ago, but it isn’t fair on Cilic to put the same weights on his shoulders as you can on Rafael Nadal’s.

Looking at the calendar year thus far – Australian to Roger, French to Rafael, Wimbledon to Roger – it does indeed appear that the world order has been restored. Time HAS turned back, hasn’t it? Not once could I stuff my hands in my mouth tonight, as is my nervous tic. He is rather brilliant, but then Gods are rather brilliant.

Roger Federer will guide you home and bel19f will fix you.

(Pictures courtesy of Wimbledon’s official Instagram page)

XIX: (Sweet) Dreams Are Made Of This.

“Great Scott, he can fly!” yelled Bagman as the crowd shrieked and gasped. “Are you watching this, Mr. Krum?”

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Ah, Great Scott, Roger can fly!

It isn’t how JK Rowling meant it but tonight, it is how I mean it.

It may not have been a match he’d wanted, but it was a victory he’d deserved.

“I kept on believing and dreaming, and here I am today with the eighth.”

 

Madness, really. – ii

Today, the first word that left my pen was a seven lettered one.

Madness is a realm so wide:
It holds not a you or a me,
Only but our two pennies’ worth of
pride.

Madness is an interlude:
It builds not between a you or a me,
Only within the walls of
yesterday’s dues.

Madness is a singsong trite:
It rings not a tune of a you or a me,
Only aches of tomorrows
unalike.

Madness isn’t mild, you see.

Today the only words that leave my pen want to honour a seven lettered one.

Today it’s all I want to write about.

Madness, really.

July 6, 2017
A chair and a table, India

 

Madness, really.

Madness is a realm so wide:
It contains not a you or a me,
Only but our two pennies’ worth of
pride.

For whom the bell tolls.

January 27, 2017

When he’d lost the Wimbledon 2016 semi-final from a winning position, my fingers were hurting from the number of times I had stuffed them in my mouth – my teeth mercilessly digging into them. I came home and wrote down the torrent of emotions that I was then feeling: Of a God, of my God.

If I said a part of me was gunning for Grigor Dimitrov today because I knew Roger Federer would find it easier to defeat him than Rafael Nadal, I wouldn’t be lying. As the near-five hours of high-adrenaline tennis comes to a close, my stomach is in so many knots that I’m no longer sure if I can untie them all. Dimitrov is the new sex, and one of the commentators’ closing lines – Dimitrov did everything right today apart from winning the match was perhaps the best way you could put it. I might even have fallen in love a little. My nerves are frayed, fried and fucked; meanwhile, my sore voice probably snow-dived to a new low as I doled out swear words and curses generously at the computer screen. Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal. I can’t decide if I’m happier than I am nervous or the other way round. It’s been such a long drought and I am parched.

Andre Agassi’s OPEN sums up my feelings perfectly. I like tennis because it’s a one-man show and only an insurmountable amount of mental strength and composure can see you through from the first round to the finish line of a tournament. It appeals to me greatly how you must teach your mind to calm the fuck down or else it’ll only be helter-skelter on the court. It all comes down to one thing – you. There’s no fate, no destiny or no team members to let you down. It’s your talent, your perseverance and your choices. Andre Agassi compares it to life, and I think I agree.

“It’s no accident, I think, that tennis uses the language of life. Advantage, service, fault, break, love, the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature. Even the structure of tennis, the way the pieces fit inside one another like Russian nesting dolls, mimics the structure of our days. Points become games become sets become tournaments, and it’s all so tightly connected that any point can become the turning point. It reminds me of the way seconds become minutes become hours, and any hour can be our finest. Or darkest. It’s our choice.”

You go through so many emotional upheavals, constantly hitting crests and troughs. Physical fitness is paramount but mental fitness is equally important. Rafael Nadal is the most resilient players in the game, and he can unravel Roger Federer in ways unique to him with his mental resilience alone.

Some say Roger should retire. Some overenthusiastic in their show of support say he should win every tournament. But it isn’t like that. It isn’t like that at all. He’s 35 years old and he has won 17 grand slams, while having stayed world number 1 for 237 consecutive weeks. He’s 35 years old and he’s still here, moving so well that he puts everyone else’s athleticism to shame. He hasn’t won a single slam since July of 2012, and if he had listened to any of his critics and retired from the sport, he would never have known that he could make it to what would be his 29th grand slam final on Sunday. And these are mere numbers for those hungry for such banalities.

There are things that occur inside of me only when I watch him play. There’s some sort of relentless, passionate devotion that I never exhibit for anything or anyone else. Something that fills the void. Aside from Harry Potter, maybe. While watching yesterday’s semi-final, one of the commentators said that – when you watch other players like a Novak or a Rafa, you’re left wondering what’s going on inside their heads but when you watch Roger, it’s like instead of him feeling anything, it is what he is making you feel. I couldn’t agree more. With every passing tournament, I’m dreading that we are near the finish line. The final finish line.

Let alone my children watch him, I’m afraid I will never be able to watch him in person. Even as I try to make peace with that, I’m afraid that I’ll never be as passionate and devout a fan for a Dimitrov as I am for Roger Federer. Because only players like Federer and Nadal have achieved the pinnacle and stayed at it. Because they are legends. And legends never retire. Whatever happens on Sunday, I know my heart will break. Whatever the outcome on Sunday, I will keep wanting more and I’m so afraid.

Whatever happens on Sunday, send not to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

Whatever happens on Sunday.

July firsts

Do you remember our second night: the quiver in my step, the disbelief in my senses and the hours terrified?

Do you remember our first night: caught between no roof to sleep under and no friend to go beside; building forts out of white sheets and black backpacks on bunk beds?

Do you remember our second night: battling the rain and swimming with suitcases; the flooded pavements were a sight slight better than the gloomy apartment?

Do you remember our first night: making conversations with strangers was easier than I had been given to think?

Do you remember our second night: I was anxious and afraid for I hadn’t known you enough?

Mumbai, it has been a hell of a year.

5:52PM

What did we ever do to deserve a sky like this?

4:26AM

The day breaks early today with colours incandescent.

The open skies of the open terrace breathe life into me, and I find purpose again.

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