On Starry Nights and Beating Hearts
Under a clear night sky in Villupuram
One evening, I was out with frolleagues (colleagues who are friends). We went to a rooftop cafe which opened up to the sky and the overlooked the sea. As darkness descended, we looked up and found just one shiny object in the sky. It took us a while to decide if it was a planet or the North Star. There were no other visible celestial objects. Not even the moon. I imagine that if we ran our finger across the sky, we would wipe off a thick coat of dust and then the stars would peek out. In Mumbai, the sky is like the old TV screen locked up in an old forgotten house gathering dust by the kilo. That’s why when I went to the terrace of my guest house and looked up at the sky, I had to recall what I had been taught in school – that there are stars in the sky. I cannot put into words the simplicity and the gravity of that realisation. It might seem silly, but I felt like I was looking up after a long time of living underground. The sky was a deep, dark blue and stars were scattered across it like castor sugar on blueberry pudding. I could count them and then, I couldn’t count them. I could carve out my own constellation. I could watch as they twinkled. And twinkle, they did.
Then, there was also the large, looming moon that lit up the terrace, houses, trees, roads, and accompanied the stars just like it’s supposed to. This moon was a steadfast companion sometimes peeking sometimes guiding us on dark roads that we took to because who cares about street lights, anyway? My most vivid memory of doing something similar was when we were riding on bikes through a forested area and there was a gentle breeze, the sky was open where the trees let it and there was a lot of twinkling. I can’t recall if the twinkling was from the stars, the drizzle, the headlights, or just my eyes. It was surely one of those.
I told P that I saw stars in the sky as if it was the most fascinating thing I did when away. She understood me, but she also said that it’s a pity that city dwellers don’t know the joy of small things like seeing the stars at night. I agree with her. We also spoke about how as we grow older, we’re starting to become a little jaded. I’ve spent the better part of this year ensuring that I don’t become a bitter person. It has been hard, but it has been the foremost thing I wanted to avoid. I didn’t want to let my battles and demons turn me into someone who couldn’t appreciate the smallest things in life and be grateful. I find that it was so easy to let oneself become jaded because it takes so little effort. DF has played a huge, huge role in ensuring that I didn’t drown in the chasm of hopelessness. His words have meant so much that it boggles my mind how can one be so optimistic with what the state of the world. There have been dark days, and then, I have put up a fight to let the sunshine in. I don’t know how long I will live, but for as long as I do, I want to believe that there is some good in this world and it’s worth fighting for.
Oneself is worth fighting for.
For isn’t there so much sadness and heartbreak in this world? I have come to accept that some parts of life are really messed up, some people deserve to be killed, the universe’s pilot machinery is broken, and that guarding your happiness is your foremost duty in this world. Being kind comes a close second. Reading the introduction of books comes third. Do not, I repeat, do not enter the realm of a book without reading its long, meandering, well-written, and often-overlooked introduction. It says so much about the world you’re about to enter that you cannot afford to take it casually. Read the damn introduction even if it is 17 pages. Don’t treat it like the class you want to bunk because you don’t feel like it. What do you feel like then? How are you ever going to make (brain) muscle? How are you ever going to pay attention to the world you live in? There’s so much godawful and godawesome stuff going on around here.
Reading introductions of books will help you on nights when conversations run out, but you want them to keep going on. When you don’t want the night to end. But if that’s not something you like, learn how to sing a song. One song is fine. Learn how to sing it. And sing it no matter how well or how badly. Sing it aloud in the house. Throw those headphones in your bag (because I’m sure they’re expensive) and let the room be filled with the sound of a song. If there’s something really precious in this world, it is music. No matter that I don’t understand it. No matter that I can’t play an instrument to save my life. No matter that I will not be able to tell you if a song has been doctored. But when I was looking back at this year’s posts, I read one in which I said that I wanted to buy a splitter and share music with someone in another city. I had no idea if I would get around to doing it, but I did. No matter that the splitter lay unused. But under that starry sky, I was lucky enough to set a song to a road, and sing it at the top of my squeaky voice. I didn’t know that setting a tune to the road was not a task for me alone, but it was supposed to be done with friends. And it was with friends that I did it.
Because I love open roads. They make me beyond happy. They make me feel that even if for a while, there is some space for me on this planet. That I matter. That my insignificance matters. That I am crawling across the planet like a black dot. That the world is a Marauder’s map. That because it is a Marauder’s map, it is full of magic. Once the mischief is managed, I will fade away. But for that brief while, I scuttled along the map. That for a while, I was seen.
One does not matter in a large crowd. Even if you don’t work with the corporate sector, you must know that in the overall scheme of things you’re just a demographic, just a number. And this has become increasingly real to me as time passes by. Most of our lives are going to end with the earth stubbornly refusing to shatter beneath our brilliance and splendour. After taking wondrous vacations, we’re going to return to routine lives, write more than necessary emails that no one cares about, read books in transit (without reading their introductions), stock up on groceries with a heavy-hand on processed food, or just take away bad Chinese food for dinner. Eating the fruit is going to be hard work. It’s not exciting. But we must eat the fruit because one day, just like the stars, we won’t be able to hear the beating of our heart (and I am being metaphorical here, but yes, health issues can also come up). And my, it’s such a rush to hear the beating of your heart. To feel it thud in your ears. To be able to quietly hear it in the silence and not be afraid of how it goes. That’s the only thing that matters in the end – can you hear your own heart and be unafraid? Can you live with it? Can you say with certainty that it is where you are? Or have you left it someplace you can’t find? Does it beat like you took care of it? Does it?
“But you and your heart
Shouldn’t feel so far apart”
- I started reading the world this year. Here’s my book list for 2016. I will continue reading the rest of it next year.
- I created a playlist of all the songs whose titles I used as blog posts. Here’s the playlist.
- I haven’t finished my blackout poetry project. The 2016 blackout poems can be found here.
- I am glad to have received personal comments and song titles for posts from readers. Thank you. It means a lot.
It has been eight years. It still feels like home.