Beautiful idle thoughts…
I had scarlet marks on the shoulders, so I wondered if I should be worried. The reason I was reminded of those was that I was half-naked, sweating in my chair, observing things so that my brain doesn’t collapse into dysfunction. The fan had stopped due to power cut and my Samsung Galaxy J2 had almost slipped into unconsciousness. It was sweltering hot and I started following my sweat beads out of boredom. Then, I noticed the marks. Red as molten prenatal daggers. Then, I decided to use up the remaining 11% of my phone’s charge and as I was flicking through the web, I googled my symptoms.
Five signs that you have cancer – It said.
It’s still okay – I thought, at least it’s not in my testicles. Yet. I don’t have a problem with cancer, but I’d rather not have it. There’s nothing romantic about cancer unless you’re kissing Shailene Woodley in front of 50 people in Anne Frank’s house.
Talking about cancer, my mother would probably take that deal. Once she got a 6000 buck test and the reports declared – everything‘s normal. She was so disappointed she went for a second opinion which costed another fortune and gave the same result.
She then called Goldy’s dad, who is a chemist but who my mother has more faith in than she has in a doctor, and asked if there was, by any chance, a teeny tiny possibility of her having a disease. He said no, but my mother insisted so he asked her to take pomegranate juice twice a day.
“Didn’t I tell you? There was something wrong with me. “She told us later.
Anyway, I dismissed the very possibility of cancer. Why?
I read horoscope. There are only so many things you can do while taking a dump. I used to listen to radio, but since the birth of jio, I usually browse through news and stuffs. I read horoscopes too. Horoscope of today, of the year 2020, and which career suits my personality, and if a Sagittarius, by any chance, is the ideal match for a Capricorn. It never mentions death. Never says – Blah Blah Blah, and oh, maybe you’re dying today. It talks in hints. A few years ago, the newspaper horoscope asked me, for a whole month, to be careful on the road. Then, there was this Facebook post that promised to foretell exactly how one was going to die. The person had to type his name along with a few random letters and post it as a comment.
When I did it, it suggested accident as the cause of my death.
I have been so careful on roads since then. I avoid busy roads and walk on the extreme left of the footpaths. Sometimes you’d even find me in the hedges by the sidewalk, hacking my way through, plodding carefully to avoid any truck that might be running in the bushes. With trucks, and Salman’s driver’s car, you can’t take any chances. A National Highway runs through my city and the newspapers often publish the reports of entire huts getting trampled by insane trucks, killing everybody inside. Imagine you are cooking Biryani in your home and an 8-wheeler drops out of nowhere and squashes you like a lemon. That’s a nasty way to die. At least you get to see a hospital in cancer, and your body remains intact, in a single piece. As my stars suggest, when I die, I’d probably be lying in pieces, bloodied and cold.
So I had to dismiss cancer.
When I decided I didn’t have cancer, I felt kind of lonely. I am so single that even a disease won’t go out with me. Roads reminded me of Heer, and something crossed my mind, and this was the funny thing. I would always ask her to get on my left when we were walking. I thought it would be safer for her. The bikes would often graze my sleeve, and I’d almost wet my pants, but I’d keep her on my left anyway.
Things you do for love!
Thinking of her made me even sadder. I needed to eat. When I’m sad, I eat in tonnes. I wanted to be locked with food, and AC.
I was drenched now. Delhi is a shitty place, I tell you. And if you ever build a house make sure you don’t build it like my apartment. The heat was unbearable, so were the memories.
I thought about Doctor and all the possible dots on earth where she could be. I was bored so I typed her name on Google and clicked search. It talked about the word origin and its meaning and NGOs by her name. I memorized the names and purpose of a few organizations.
Things you do for love!
A journey pleasant and not so pleasant. 😌
We drove amid the downpour for an hour to reach Katihar Jn. The loud splashes at the window and the faint music in the car sort of swirled into a nostalgic lemonade, throwing me onto the glowing streets of Ranchi – Airport road and all – and I ended up thinking about someone I shouldn’t. I was also missing my mother a lot, because she’d always come to see me off in all these years and that day was an exception. It was plain nostalgia, but it was pretty awful.
The train arrived, trundling with an ebbing musical roar, well before time and I picked my luggage up and started towards B8. Red coaches, white lights, blue seats – Rajdhani offers you weird amusements. The last time I travelled by this train, I swore never to come back here. But you know my mother, right? She thinks Rajdhani is Noah’s arc and so I was here, yet again, jostling through the crowd to find my seat, my mind doubtful and my soul uneasy.
That’s when I saw her. Black top, dark blue jeans and rectangular frameless specs. There was a man by her who I suppose was her father. They both didn’t look related at all, though. She was pretty and he looked like the normal middle aged guy who acts in teleshopping commercials. My seat was just above her and it was kind of comforting. No, I wasn’t filled with lust instantly like I am supposed to. You see, when you are missing your guava trees, erection is impossible.
I sat on the edge of the seat and twenty minutes later, the dad bid her bye and got off the train. Okay, now I was curious. I scanned through the boggie and found just one competitor – the guy on the side upper berth. He seemed like a narcissistic moron, who would spend a hundred bucks on haircut. But he wasn’t much interested, it appeared, and that escalated my chances of getting to strike up a conversation with her.
I had it planned. I’d pretend to look out the window, but just so well that she knows I’m pretending to look out the window, and check her out, just so well that she knows I’m checking her out. Then, I’d check her reaction.
Yeah! That was it! This trick never gets old. How else do you think Roman knights wooed their damsels? They pretended to look somewhere else.
Er..As it turned out, though, the girl took my acting seriously and started looking out the window herself. She thought I saw something fishy, like a flying baby or something, so I stopped peering out and let a behemoth sigh. This idea tanked like Bombay Valvet.
I thought about giving another try. I pulled out my sleek golden Galaxy J2 and plunged my earpieces in and fished through my albums for a girly romance. There was none, so I played Lootera. I was halfway through the movie when I realized I had to only pretend to watch the movie, and not actually watch it, and just so well that she knows I’m pretending to watch the movie and well you know the rest. Ughh…this was proving to be a lot more difficult than I’d imagined.
The train staff arrived with samosas, and just ten minutes later, a family stepped in. There were five kids in that goddamn family. Perhaps the news of the invention of condoms had not yet reached their village. Five kids who looked alike and wore the same dress. I bit the samosas with trembling jaws as I calculated how many hours more to go with those imps in the next boggie. Delhi was yet a billion light years away, but I hoped they’d realize they’d boarded the wrong train and get off at the next station. That didn’t happen anyway.
The bastard – the other guy in his late twenties, with receding hairlines and all, who looked like an Insurance agent you shouldn’t trust – on my opposite seat took advantage of my nervousness and tried on the girl. First, he called somebody on the phone and started conversing in lame English. There’s this English that you speak from your heart, and then there’s this English you speak to make your copassengers guess if you are the illegitimate child of Warren Hastings. This guy was getting an accent in his conversation, and that pissed me off.
Then what he did was completely out of the book. He hung up and asked the girl if she was from DU.
“Galgotias. “She said and I almost laughed.
“Oh. “He said, “My cousin studied there. ”
Like fuck he did! Like fuck he had a cousin!
“Oh nice. “The girl said. Now I was getting worked up, and to add to my ire, the five kids in the next boggie started crying together. There was no symphony in their wails and it jabbed my ears and gave me cerebral aneurysm. I loathe kids.
The man started talking about his cousin and this teacher who she would probably get to know in the second year, and I just pretended to look at my Galaxy J2 while I gritted my teeth in rage.
The only comfort was that the girl wasn’t interested much.
The kids stopped howling after their mother thrusted a lollipop each in their mouths and I felt like asking why she hadn’t done it already for the last one million years. Parents are dicks, I tell you.
I finished Lootera and concluded that love is bullshit after all and nobody’s going to paint leaves for me, so I climbed up onto my berth and tried to sleep. I couldn’t because the blinding white from the flush mount ceiling light was giving my soul a third degree torture. I considered switching it off but the girl had already opened The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by now, and I was pretty sure she couldn’t read in the dark. Damn.
Late at night, when people were about to sleep, she asked me if there was an extra pillow on my berth. I felt like giving her my own pillow. Umm…not really. Sacrificing your pillow is the zenith of virtue. This Ranchi girl I dated once asked me to come over to her room so that we could sleep together (in the most innocent manner possible) but get my own pillow because she wouldn’t share hers with me whatsoever.
Anyway, that bastard got off his seat and went to the train staff and demanded a pillow without the delay of a breath.
“I’ll rate this train a big 0, I swear. “He swore, and I could see the girl’s face and I almost laughed at how she wanted to jump out the emergency window.
“Is he your brother? “I asked. She looked at me, pretending to be thinking about it, but just so well that I knew she was pretending to be thinking about it and said,
“That would be a nice proposition. ”
He brought two pillows with him and asked her to tell him if she needed anything else.
“Thanks Bhaiyya. “The girl said.
They never talked again.
An hour later, I thought about giving it a shot, this time, without any pretense, and so I poked my head down, but she was asleep and beautiful and so I just smiled and got my head back on my berth and slept.
Till the kids started crying again.
A story. A secret. A notebook.
The rain crackles like a log fire. I sit in the old brown armchair with her notebook on my lap, half shut and half read, peering out through the drenched pane. The citylights are colorful fuzzy specks on my window glass, and the city itself, the lively, incessant, immortal city, a quiet frozen artwork on my door glass. I watch the torrents, and I think about the book and about friendship and love and about her and me and us, and that’s when it all starts to come back, the downpour of that monsoon….
We used to be the oddballs of our class. Me, an arrogant over achieving dork, and she, a quiet lost underdog. She wasn’t the most beautiful girl you’d see, nor was she the dumbest. Almond eyes, oval face, and hair done in ponies, always in ponies – she wasn’t a cindrella or a Snow white, yet something about her hooked me right from day 1. The brown bag that was the same shade as her irises, the slow relaxed steps of her walk, the way she said ‘electrolysis’ – I don’t know, but there was that something which you never understand but always feel.
I was in my IITJEE phase those days. It was the exam I lived for. Computer Science from IITDelhi, get a job at microsoft or google, MBA from Cambridge, earn till 40s, settle in Paris, live the dream – it was my plan. I knew I could do that. Piles of certificates on my shelf would say that. I didn’t have a girl or a love story in my bucket list. Love – I’d made myself believe that – was an over secretion of Dopamine.
It was the morning of July. It was falling in buckets. The sky roared like the day of apocalypse. I walked out of the house 40 minutes before the Assembly bell, knowing most of the students would not come. As I reached the classroom, there she was, slouched over her desk, scribbling something in her notebook. She shut that as soon as she saw me.
“Is that a secret diary or something? “I asked. “Are you working for ISIS? “I joked, wondering if she even knew what ISIS was. I had a sudden hankering to teach her the whole Islamist history that I read on my train journy to Nainital.
“Nothing. “She said.
“Are you always this quiet? ”
“Are you always this talkative? ”
“Just Curious. ”
She thought for a while, turned her eyes sideways, as if to check it was a safe place, and said,
“A story. ”
That’s all I could know. We talked, dated, fell in love, made out, but she never told me what’s it about. Everytime I asked her about the notebook she had the same answer – a story.
I got into IITDelhi. She had 68.2% in XII board. For once in my life, just for a tiny moment, I didn’t want to get into IIT anymore. I wanted to stay around this girl, who did crazy things with my mind and wrote a secret story that nobody knew.
We kept talking and it was going okay. But studies kept me busy and the conversations started to become monotonous. Then one day, it stopped. The calls went unanswered and the messages didn’t come back. I didn’t try much either.
The notebook arrived this monsoon. Swathed in a turquoise wrapping paper whose shine had faded away with time, and the ribbons flanked by dust, it seemed like the old treasure you recover from your storehouse. It’d been 3 years of our separation, and I never went home (projects, internship, seminar, workshops) and all I remembered about her was her bag, her slow relaxed steps, and the way she said ‘electrolysis’. And the notebook.
The notebook it was.
Nothing romantic. No diary with details of her fetishes, no love letters to shiny armoured knights, no poems of tragedy or love.
It had one line accounts of her days. I flicked through the pages, looking for some letters stashed in between, but all I found was one sentence on every page, till the half.
I didn’t know what to do with it, and why she had sent it after all this time. I also wondered if she was okay. Oh! How I missed her after seeing the notebook!
I thought maybe she wanted to get back into a relationship. I had no problem, I just had to find her number.
I dialled her number and it said unavailable. I asked my schoolfriends and they asked theirs and nothing came out.
I started reading the notebook.
‘My mother died when I was 2. ‘The first page read. I never knew that. I knew she was dead but never knew it was so early. My heart shook all of a sudden. How much of her did I even know?
I started reading it. The sentences, and each of those, revealed something I didn’t know about her. It may have been a story, but it was so real.
I shall go to Paris once.
I wanted it to rain longer today.
His smile is infectious.
Life’s good. ☺
And that’s it. That’s the half of the notebook.
I look back at it, the smiley beside ‘Life’s Good’ and wonder what’s coming next.
The next page says
How are you?
And the rest of the notebook is blank…
The guilt and the burden. And The Change
It has been a year since then. All my memories have become smoggy. Even though the texts are archived on FB, I haven’t browsed through those for the last 365 days. She’s online, she always is, but we don’t talk anymore. I check her profile, the latest updates, and after I fail to find any recent developments I go to settings to log out.
Dingggg! goes my messenger.
It’s a text from her.
We talk. Reminisce and tell. It’s different now, though. The persons that we were and the persons we have become. Kind of Strangers. The air between us isn’t pink anymore. Two days later, she drops the hammer with the words –
Being a history student who has studied constant linear changes for the last two semesters, there’s no one like me who can lay an iota more of emphasis on the fact that PEOPLE CHANGE. Yes, people! You change. You bloody change. And so does everything else in the universe. Hell, according to Neil degrasse Tyson, even the universe is changing, constantly.
The problem is when the other person doesn’t accept that she has changed.
“I’m still the same Naina/Pinky/Salma/whatever, but you’ve changed. “They claim and make you feel the guilt you could have happily lived without.
The reason why they claim such might vary, but the most remarkable and obvious one is because they themselves want to escape the guilt. Now people, guilt isn’t some single bed mosquito net with a hole that you can escape. It’s a liability that has to be shifted. So unless you’re forgiven or proved innocent, there’s no escaping guilt. One spectacular way of proving yourself innocent is to pass the guilt to someone else. Make the victim the criminal. Genius! 😑
So what happens is that the other person texts you out of nowhere, pretends she wants to rekindle the friendship/half-girlfriendship/whatever, either consciously or subconsciously, and instead what she does is find the changes, spot those minute differences in your manners that actually are developments over periods and says – You aren’t the same person anymore. And this lame line justifies it all. At once, the roles are reversed, and she becomes the victim. The victim of your change.
This is like the height of ridiculousness. 😂
Yes I am not the same person anymore. But nor are you. We both have grown. Differently and apart. You think you are the same innocent self but you are not. At least I do not live in a delusion. And at least, I don’t feel the guilt that you subconsciously feel.
The change is bound to happen. Life is like a river, as old poets have sung. It never stops, just goes on and on, always moving ahead, changing itself and the world around it. The problem isn’t that I changed and you changed but that we didn’t change together. We forked away and now our courses don’t run parallel. That’s a naked truth you can’t see. But you must understand this.
And don’t be guilty of the past, well, unless you’ve killed like one million jews or something. Move on. Change. That is why you are a human. The change that happens with you and within you isn’t merely a change, it’s growth. Grow.
And of course I don’t owe an apology to somebody if I have changed even an atom. It’s upto you to stay or leave. I’ll keep changing, with time and tides. That’s why I am free…