Imagine two people. Both are fiercely independent and both like quiet. One wishes to carpe diem unto infinity. He wants to walk a million miles with no accoutrements, no entanglements and no predispositions, and then a million miles more. He wants to sleep under the night sky and wake up to the sound of waves lapping at his travel-worn feet, with the smell of salt in the gentle warm breeze whispering sweet nothings to the bare bits of his skin. He wants to roll in cold, white snow and swim in oxbow lakes even though he never learnt how to swim. He wants to stand on the edge of the world with arms akimbo, wishing he had a cape fluttering behind him and an S imprinted on his chest. He wants to dangle his legs from a sea-facing cliff and eat food from a box with chopsticks. He does not know how to use chopsticks nor can the food, the name of which he knows not, be eaten with chopsticks but he never fancied limitations and definitions anyway. He wants to light a cigarette – only light it – whilst sitting on a precipice; he’d stub it out on the rocky surface, and then flick it into the nothingness below him, as if the cigarette were an ivory striker on a carrom board he had grown up playing with. He wants to sit atop a speeding bus that is weaving its way through the labyrinth of roads nestled in hills and valleys, with wind in his hair, music in his ears and smell of wet copper red earth mixed with dew-kissed leaves smeared on his skin. He wants to watch the northern lights from his yellow tent with nothing but a flask of coffee that his gracious hostess, from the night before, lent him, a torch light and a book that he bought from the local post office, because he was overwhelmed to find that they stocked novels in his spoken language, especially after having meandered for so many days through kindness and beauty of unknown tongues and origins.

The other one breeds realism of the paranoid variety in every molecule of his being. He likes safety nets, contingency plans and insurance. He is anxious of under-using the faculties he was born with and of misusing the privileges he unfairly receives. He likes the nighttime. He’s not an insomniac; he simply thinks sleep is a waste of breath that could be used to knit the worlds that his perception of reality has denied him thus far. He likes order, design and to-do lists. He has more calendars, checklists and Post-Its pasted on the walls of his room than he has posters and pictures. He likes to sleep till late to avoid waking up to the claustrophobia he’s churning out each day. He reassures himself that he’ll change, he will.. when the ‘appropriate time’ comes and the ‘circumstances’ are conducive. He shushes the impulses that seldom course through him. He likes the occasional self-endangering, masochistic thrill. He’s self-conscious and, outbursts are despicable things to him. He doesn’t look up at the sky through the window from his room at all.

Imagine another. He has a deep distaste for the excesses of materialism and consumerism. He despises furniture and luxury transportation. He fancies walking and ponders on the insufferable self-pity swallowing us all whole. He ponders on our desperate need for nomenclature and our abuse of it. He thinks of one of the quotes by one of his favourite authors: “Cats don’t have names. Now, you people have names. That’s because you don’t know who you are. We know who we are, so we don’t need names.” He ponders on “the ineffable yearning to be saved” and to find meaning. He does not find it in him to be able to give himself over completely to another person by way of the thing they call ‘love’. He’s known infatuation, longing and lust but the notion of love eludes him. He wishes to melt away by melting into the teeming throngs that suffocate the world. He wishes to expand across the sky and be one with the universe, uncaring of the multitudes populating the world below with their cantankerous politics and insatiable thirst to control what was never theirs to control. He likes music, dance, a few best friends, sleepy Saturday mornings and spunky, sexy conversations that last till dawn.

And imagine one more. He is painfully aware of himself, of the gaps and the surpluses in him, of the war inside and out, and of the faceless stranger he sees look back at him from a mirror. He is swimming against the current in an ocean that is the universe whose ends he’s unable to grasp. Put them all together into one person: this is she and she is a you or a me or a he. Who are you today?

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