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Young With Scabby Knees

Whether we be old or bald.

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Days of Our Lives

Truth and fiction: Outside of my head.

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.

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

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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.

‘Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby’

A Tinder conversation escalated from “Hey” to “I’m a fuckboy and I am here for hook-ups. Why are you here?” in the space of one text which was my reply to the said “Hey”. The prude in me was all but set to take offense except the rest of me shut her down as soon as she started to wrinkle her nose.

I spiralled off into my mind palace, reasoning with myself: Would you rather he charmed you with Harry Potter quotes, Manto translations and biryani stories only to mislead you with the oh-so-wonderful signals? Or, would you prefer absolute honesty from the word go? You do know this is Tinder, right? Besides, let’s not pretend that you’re high on all things serious and are here for anything more than thumb exercise and unlimited validation.The abysmal sex ratio makes Tinder a fertile ground for temporarily curing my insecurities. (Tinder is the Haryana of apps, one date had quipped to me, as we jokingly discussed how every right swipe mostly is a match for women, in our limited experience.)

It took me three seconds to be so but I was glad for the change in the script that I was used to. There has emerged a dating trend, one that is inspired by social media’s pervasive YOLO hangover, which amounts to multiple one-night stands with the same person. I’ve been a participant as well as a victim to it.

I replied, “I’m here cuz I am bored and Tinder seems to be the shortcut.” Texting back – I’m a fuckgirl and I too am here for hook-ups – would’ve been bit much of a banal meet-cute. Fuckboy replied, “Wow that’s the first time a girl did not overreact! You wrested a screenshot opportunity from me!” And so we began to spar. I admitted that the last time I impulsively agreed to go on a date without caring for compatibility, I was thoroughly bored, insinuating no fucks would be traded if I was bored. He agreed that intellectual stimulation is a cliche that does hold good. There was no flirting, only the blatant admission of intentions, and some candid banter on some of our beliefs. At the end of the conversation, I felt oddly refreshed. No one had been misled.

For the first time in a long while, I met a person who was clear with what he wants from another and we could honestly trade words and fucks without fishing for signals. A fuckboy/fuckgirl/fuckwhoever need not be a despicable species, not the ones who can own up to the task. A fuckwhoever, often misunderstood to be a modern spin on the term playboy/playgirl/playwhoever, is essentially one who can separate the emotional from the physical and treats sex as musical chairs, but with due mutual consensus. The pseudo-fuckwhoevers are those that string you along with their “I don’t know what I want”. It’s an immature lot who revel in their confusion, unapologetic of the wreckage they leave in their wake. It’s those that float their boats in high seas of “commitment phobia” that bring a bad name to our kind. We know exactly what we want, how we want it, with whom we want it and for how long we want it.

On occasions, whenever I’ve taken the hint that the other person was starting to be attached in ways more than I could ever reciprocate, I’ve let the person know that it wasn’t going to work out. I, fuckgirl, have never strung a person along but hell, none of my karma seems to return to me: I’ve allowed myself to venture into the dangerous territory of mixed signals, waving the flag of hope. It isn’t foolish to have hope, I told myself, but it is selfish to be apathetic towards those whose lives you’re fully conscious of affecting.

A friend of mine, a fellow victim of “I don’t know what I want”, cautioned me against Fuckboy saying that rat poison remains rat poison even if you’ve read the label before uncorking it. I pacified her: At least this bottle comes with a label.

 

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.

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.”

 

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.

Sleepless with Morrie

There are a few minutes left until the clock shall tell me that it’s 4 in the morning and thereby unintentionally imply that I have stayed awake through yet another night. But this night/morning is special. I met Morrie tonight.

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It wasn’t until I had read three quarters of the book that I realised that the contents of it weren’t fictitious and that it was all true.

Morrie and Mitch, in 192 pages, condensed and consolidated so many of my thoughts that I have been trying to process for the last couple of years; amplifying the single chant in my being, something I have consciously striven towards for the greater part of the last couple of years – (pardon the Bollywood trope) Follow your heart.

“Why are we embarrassed by silence? What comfort do we find in all the noise?”

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“I am every age, up to my own.”

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I convinced myself that my needs were realistic, my greed inconsequential compared to theirs. This was a smokescreen. Morrie made that obvious.

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Death ends a life, not a relationship.

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‘You’re not a wave, you’re part of the ocean.’

I couldn’t bring myself to read or write meaningful words from the time I returned from Nepal. I gave a big piece of myself away to the country and to re-align myself with the world that I had left behind has not been easy. The ‘tension of opposites’ persists.

At such a juncture, ignoring the nagging feeling in my head (which was conceived when I read the back of the book and groaned at the prospect of having to read two hundred pages of self-help under the facade of a story) and trusting the word of the friend who owned the book, I started and finished the book in one night.

You won’t even realise how you cannot put the book down until you do.

May 26, 2017
Kolkata, India

Men & Women Are Not Equal.

Maybe it was the physical exertion resulting from ascending the 20-odd (give or take a few) kilometres from Tatopani to Ghasa, or the psychological stress and anxiety surrounding the trip to Nepal; maybe it was the release of a year’s worth of sexual and emotional frustration, or the unbridled exhilaration and disbelief at being able to complete the first day of the trek; maybe it was the ridiculously affordable and effective locally-brewed liquor or the canopy of stars blanketing the skies above me. The list of what can affect your menstrual cycle is rather long and unimaginative.

On the morning of the second day of the trek, I was awoken by an uneasy feeling in my stomach that immediately resolved itself to be the start of ‘that time of the month’. So there I was – ten days early, a person who has never been early even for a single day for all her post-pubescent life.

Disclaimer: Do you remember the girl, who runs around in white trousers while on her period, in the commercials for sanitary napkins? I am not that girl. I am the girl who falls unconscious from the pain in her belly and who the doctors tell that all she can do is pop pills. I hated helplessly swallowing down those pills.

I wasn’t alone and I did not want my weakness to derail the trek so I popped pain pills, sparing only seconds to curse the universe at large, as is routine, and started off. As I made the slow progress from Ghasa to Kokhethanti, I was quiet, breathless and alone for the most part, perennially lagging behind, ever so reminded of the fat to muscle ratio in my body. In the serenity of the world’s deepest gorge, amongst other things, my mind was a bundle of calculations.

Why can’t I tell my companions that I will need bathroom breaks oftener than usual? Why can’t I tell my companions that there’s a party in my uterus and I wasn’t invited to it? Why can’t I tell them that I need another minute before we start again? What is this strange sense of martyrdom that I am resorting to?

We climbed a mountain that day. I thought I was going to die.

The day after, we braved the infamous roaring winds of the Jomsom basin and crossed a river on foot. I thought I was going to die. I popped more pills that night and drank more local liquor (less affordable, the higher you are), the combined effect of which strung me up high as a kite. I slept like a baby that night, feeling triumphant, triumphant that in the war that my body was waging against me, it lost. I won.

It was the fourth day of the trek (and the third day of the period), when I couldn’t move a hundred metres without my legs giving away. I was foolish to believe that it would only get easier from the third day on. I was giddy and nauseated yet I refused to accept help or acknowledge that I may lose the war that day.

But I did lose the war that day: I resigned to take the bus. In the hours I gained by hiring a ride, staring at the dried blood at the base of my fingernails and biting down on bars of chocolate, I untangled the calculations.

Why is it easier to blame AMS for your inability to walk any further today? Consider this: once in every 35 days (barring the occasional irregularity), you are ill. Menstruation is not a weakness. Weakness assigns a sense of volition to itself. No. Menstruation is an illness, because what is illness but a condition of the body that you did not choose and only have an ounce of control over. You did not want to add to the prejudice against the physical abilities of women; to make matters worse your fat to muscle ratio also did not help your case. You wanted to prove that once in every 35 days, you were no less, but the truth is that you are less. Your body is expelling blood. Take the bloody day off.

Reaching the summit of the trek on the fifth day, at Muktinath, my happiness was still weighed down by the disappointment that I could not walk all the way, that I had somehow failed by revealing and succumbing to the ailments of my body.

I solemnly resolved to return, fitter and stronger, bereft of any malformed instincts to prove or validate the worth of womankind to mankind.

It is still sexism if you are trying to ‘equal’ a man. Women and men are not equal. Human beings, for that matter, are not equal to one another. Sexism only lies in the prejudices you derive from the differences.

Love Affairs In, With & After Nepal
India

 

6 months hence: Piertotum Locomotor

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How can the sky be the limit when it in itself is limitless?

I laughed, I cried.

I fell, I flew.

I learned.

I grew.

Bannerghatta.

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It is strange that we need ‘sanctuaries’ for animals and birds; to think we think we own the planet. I look all around me and can’t help but shrug, can’t help but reject this too. The irony that runs in the name of civilisation is a thing of distaste and of wonder; oh how we ogle at these beasts, oh how we think we care for them by binding their spirits that were born free. I cringe at the sighs, the gasps and the cries that fill my ears. I look up at the clear blue sky, and I know where my heart lies, where I lie – and perhaps where their hearts lie too. This one and every other one’s for the clouds.

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October 8th, 2016
Bangalore, India

 

The Lines I Coloured When I Read Catch 22..

It’s a very recent habit when reading a book that I own – to mark the lines that mean something to me. Maybe if I ever lend the book to someone, they would know if we liked the same lines. Maybe if I read the book again when I’m older, it’ll be nice to compare notes with my younger self. Maybe I’ll never touch or open the book again and all I’m trying to do is leave as much of me as I can with book, as it will leave much of itself with me.

I finished reading Catch 22 twenty-four hours ago. I didn’t always have a highlighter pen with me, but the times I did, I sat and coloured the lines that moved me the most.

Twenty-four hours hence, I want to shout those lines out to the world.

  1. He was working hard at increasing his life span. He did it by cultivating boredom.
  2. Men went mad and were rewarded with medals.
  3. There were many principles in which Clevinger believed passionately. He was crazy.
  4. ‘Maybe a long life does have to be filled with many unpleasant conditions if it’s to seem long. But in that event, who wants one?’ ‘I do,’ Dunbar told him. ‘Why?’ Clevinger asked. ‘What else is there?
  5. Fortunately, just when things were blackest, the war broke out.
  6. ‘..I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving that girl. She was built like a dream..’
  7. Doc Daneeka rose without a word and moved his chair outside the tent, his back bowed by the compact kit of injustices that was his perpetual burden.
  8. Chief White Halfoat demanded with simulated belligerence..
  9. ..and the piercing obscenities they flung into the air every night from their separate places in the squadron rang against each other in the darkness romantically like mating calls of songbirds with dirty minds.
  10. ‘If you’re going to be shot, whose side do you expect me to be on?’
  11. ‘What could you do?’ Major Major asked himself again. What could you do with a man who looked you squarely in the eye and said he would rather die than be killed in combat, a man who was at least as mature and intelligent as you were and who you had to pretend was not? What could you say to him?
  12. ‘But suppose everybody on our side felt that way.’ ‘Then I’d certainly be a damned fool to feel any other way. Wouldn’t I?’
  13. ‘..I used to get a big kick out of saving people’s lives. Now I wonder what the hell’s the point, since they all have to die anyway.’ ‘Oh, there’s a point, all right,’ Dunbar assured him.’ ‘Is there? What is the point?’ ‘The point is to keep them from dying for as long as you can.’ ‘Yeah, but what’s the point, since they all have to die anyway?’ ‘The trick is not to think about that.’ ‘Never mind the trick. What the hell’s the point?’ Dunbar pondered in silence for a few moments. ‘Who the hell knows?’

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  14. She was not interested in money or cameras. She was interested in fornication.
  15. There were strands of enlisted men molded in a curve around the three officers, as inflexible as lumps of wood, and four idle gravediggers in streaked fatigues lounging indifferently on spades near the shocking, incongruous heap of loose copper-red earth.
  16. Yossarian thought he knew why Nately’s whore held him responsible for Nately’s death and wanted to kill him. Why the hell shouldn’t she? It was a man’s world, and she and everyone younger had every right to blame him and everyone older for every unnatural tragedy that befell them; just as she, even in her grief, was to blame for every man-made misery that landed on her kid sister and on all other children behind her. Someone had to do something sometime. Every victim was a culprit, every culprit a victim, and somebody had to stand up sometime to try to break the lousy chain of inherited habit that was imperiling them all. In parts of Africa little boys were still stolen away by adult slave traders and sold for money to men who disemboweled them and ate them. Yossarian marveled that children could suffer such barbaric sacrifice without evincing the slightest hint of fear or pain. He took it for granted that they did submit so stoically. If not, he reasoned, the custom would certainly have died, for no craving for wealth or immortality could be so great, he felt, as to subsist on the sorrow of children.
  17. The night was raw. A boy in a thin shirt and thin tattered trousers walked out of the darkness on bare feet. The boy had black hair and needed a haircut and shoes and socks. His sickly face was pale and sad. His feet made grisly, soft, sucking sounds in the rain puddles on the wet pavement as he passed, and Yossarian was moved by such intense pity for his poverty that he wanted to smash his pale, sad, sickly face with his fist and knock him out of existence because he brought to mind all the pale, sad, sickly children in Italy that same night who needed haircuts and needed shoes and socks. He made Yossarian think of cripples and of cold and hungry men and women, and of all the dumb, passive, devout mothers with catatonic eyes nursing infants outdoors that same night with chilled animal udders bared insensibly to that same raw rain. Cows. Almost on cue, a nursing mother padded past holding an infant in black rags, and Yossarian wanted to smash her too, because she reminded him of the barefoot boy in the thin shirt and thin, tattered trousers and of all the shivering, stupefying misery in a world that never yet had provided enough heat and food and justice for all but an ingenious and unscrupulous handful. What a lousy earth! He wondered how many people were destitute that same night even in his own prosperous country, how many homes were shanties, how many husbands were drunk and wives socked, and how many children were bullied, abused or abandoned. How many families hungered for food they could not afford to buy? How many hearts were broken? How many suicides would take place that same night, how many people would go insane? How many cockroaches and landlords would triumph? How many winners were losers, successes failures, rich men poor men? How many wise guys were stupid? How many happy endings were unhappy endings? How many honest men were liars, brave men cowards, loyal men traitors, how many sainted men were corrupt, how many people in positions of trust had sold their souls to blackguards for petty cash, how many had never had souls? How many straight-and-narrow paths were crooked paths? How many best families were worst families and how many good people were bad people? When you added them all up and then subtracted, you might be left with only the children, and perhaps with Albert Einstein and an old violinist or sculptor somewhere.

I can’t remember the last time that I both loved and hated a book so much, in equal measure, at the same time. Joseph Heller sure knew his way around the human mind as he did around words. Fin!

Plateau.

Do you ever want something so much that you don’t? Do you ever not want something so much that you do?

September 7th, 2016
Mumbai, India

Fantasies.

Fantasies.

Debilitating fantasies.

Of flying on broomsticks. Of finding the perfect cheesecake – and eating all of it. Of teleporting to the world of penguins – hell, of teleporting from anywhere to anywhere. Of bungee jumping off dizzying heights and levitating too. Of befriending enough number of dogs that you could make a football team out of them. Of willingly losing your way inside a maze of wood-panelled bookshelves that rise high into the clouds. Of northern lights, yellow tents and cups of coffee. Of endless nights of stargazing lying on warm (or cool) white sand. Of listening to the sound of waves till dawn breaks. Of Neverlands. Of Shires. Of the worlds beyond what meets the eye.

Of writing.

Of tracing continents on the palms of someone.

Of running your fingers across every inch of the face of someone, memorising every freckle, curve and crease, absorbing every smell.

Of swaying bodies, wind-swept hair and rain-soaked streets, and inebriation in moderation.

Of interlocked fingers spinning a world inside them; of eyes that are more vocal than words in a speech.

Of losing yourself – of disintegrating, against every fibre of reason, in someone else’s hands, legs and lips.

Fucking fantasies.

July 18th, 2016
Mumbai, India

Hello, world.

A smattering of rain, irregular traffic, skyscrapers that dare scrape the sky and poverty that dare be ubiquitous, claustrophobic hotel rooms and cute bell-boys greet me. I greet back.

IMG_20160701_111029171~2

Hello, world.

As I walk through a maze of human bodies and squalor, side-stepping puddles of muddy water that the erratic rain leaves behind, a gentle breeze slips like silk through my fingers. My consciousness without permission fragments and my fingers, of their own volition, feel forlorn. The rest of me takes stock of the world as I pass it by, one step at a time, but my fingers.. my fingers are forlorn. The breeze rekindles in them memories of a yesterday, of a you, of a me and of ‘inside jokes’ that our interlinked hands held and kept. I stutter in my step but ever so slightly. The maze thins a little.

Hello, world.

Almost everywhere the eyes can see, they are met by a plethora of roads, freeways and highways that snake around and above the too tall towers, the too small blue-topped shacks and the occasional clump of green, all shadowed by an unending rainy haze. There are little drops of water, along the edges of the window railing, waiting to lose the fight to gravity. Sometimes I like those little drops of water more than I like rain. I sit down to compress everything that I am feeling into words in ink and paper with a trembling hand. It is only then that I realise that I don’t feel different, that I don’t care about a city or all things (pertaining to a prosperous, degenerate human civilisation) that mar the said city. Is this what ‘shapeless’ feels like – that leaving home evokes no sense of nostalgia, that finding (or losing?) your own place in the world evokes no sense of apprehension?

Hello, world.

July 1st, 2016
Mumbai, India

Of a God, of my God.

Disclaimer: If God is someone you have unshakeable faith in, is someone you’re fond of yet also angry with and disappointed in, and is someone you believe possesses power no other human can possess, Roger Federer is my God. 

I don’t remember how it all began, how I started watching tennis but it was at least ten years ago, back when Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal started to be the only names worth remembering. I confess that I had initially taken to supporting Rafael Nadal – more out of loyalty to a friend than out of personal preferences – but like the earth unquestionably revolves around the sun, I inevitably gravitated towards the man who personifies grace in a game that largely is about sinews and aggression. I remember remaining in awe of his unfaltering serve. I remember my brother never resigning to doubt if Roger Federer was cornered in his own service game. “He’s going to fire straight  aces and brush the opponent  over,” he would say, which of course is exactly  what would happen. My awe towards the man only multiplied thereon. I cannot add nor redefine more praise for Roger Federer since all that can be said for the man, has been said. His movements are like brush strokes on canvass – a waltz across the court, especially if it is the central, green one at Wimbledon. As I type this tonight, Roger Federer failed to convert three of five sets in his Wimbledon semifinal against Canadian Milos Raonic. When Raonic took the fourth set, a part of me knew too well that he was going to take it all and I couldn’t find it in me to sit through the anxiety of it. Was it cowardly? I don’t know but I felt the onslaught of a downpour of tears coming my way and I tore out of the room as soon as I could. Disappointment crashed on me wave by wave. Two nights ago, I was more elated than words could describe, suddenly empowered by the belief that anything was possible, that Sunday night I would be atop the world, even if my world is making less sense every passing day. Two nights ago, I was happy and Roger Federer was sex on fire. Is this how it feels to see your heroes ride out their descent? It agonised me to see him throw away so many points that ordinarily he’d have won in his sleep. But what is ‘ordinary’ anymore? I couldn’t tell if Raonic was playing better than him or he worse than Raonic. My heart is broken for the light inside Roger Federer rages and burns but it also flickers and sometimes, dims. My heart is broken because watching tennis will seem meaningless without the calm exterior of the man I have come to love and worship. My heart is broken as the plethora of commentators and onlookers, dabbling in numbers, reduce players to statistics and a stock of score-lines.. and I dread that tomorrow’s headlines will read that it’s the first time that Roger Federer has failed to win a Wimbledon semifinal – his eleventh. Don’t they understand that it does not matter if it’s the first or the second or the fifteenth time that he lost a Wimbledon semifinal? What matters is that Roger Federer is not done yet, not yet.. not yet. And my heart is broken that perhaps we won’t see all that he can give us.

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