The first time I found myself introduced to the thought as a coherent and verbalised expression was when I read it in a letter. It was a time of great contradictions. These words came like unannounced rain washing everything and leaving behind a dampness that just wouldn’t go away. My head became clear, cold, and cottony. Trust me, I know the dichotomy. Ever since, I can see the paradoxical nature of living everywhere and I cannot go about without seeing it now that I know it exists. It hangs like an unseen chasm between the lives we live and the ones that we were trying to live. How did any of this happen? Where are the flowers we planted? Was there too much water? Was there too little of it? Too much love? Too little of it? The boys and girls we loved are now people in the crowd. Did they have tea before they left? We just went into the kitchen to boil some water. How did our lives change between room temperature and 100 degrees? We look outside the window. Is the rain here or has it gone?
“I should like to ask you, as best I can, dear Sir, to be patient towards all that is unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms, like books written in a foreign tongue.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke
I’ve been walking down unfamiliar streets finding familiar things. It’s like a do-over. As if I didn’t learn the lesson the first time. As if I lived an entire life and I wasn’t paying attention to it. I’m becoming someone else I cannot recognise. I will have to learn to live with this new person and pay attention to her. She has a cleansing routine. She eats a guava for a snack. She lies about the truth. So, I watch her some more. When she sleeps at night, is she breathing? When she’s walking down the road, is she being stared at? When she talks to my friends, is she going to love them just as much? Because the other day she wanted to give away all my books. Just give them away and not even take money for them. She stopped because I convinced her that putting out notices for book giveaways and managing the process would be cumbersome. She agreed. I sighed with relief. She’s after my books now! Tomorrow she will discard my old memories, my old loves, my carefully constructed life, and then, the cutlery I have been stacking up for dinner. What else will she be after?
“Thank you, lives we did not lead, might like to lead, might still lead.”
Naomi Shibab Nye
We sat in a circle where we were surrounded by silence and guarded by the privacy of strangers. Of not knowing people and knowing that they do not know us. We could become anything in this private space. Most of all, we could become ourselves and no one would even know. We read each other’s personal letters in that circle. We told each other’s stories and heard our own lives from others. I was the person to whom you told about Alice Munro’s book and what you thought it of. You told me about the precariousness of extremes and the gentle balance of love. You told me that you wanted me to write. I watched as you approached me and we talked about things that mattered. I was at once here and then, I was elsewhere. I was planting my words in places I never knew would circle back to me. I had never thought I had really existed until I saw myself from outside.
“I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease….observing a spear of summer grass.”
– Walt Whitman
It makes me uncomfortable. All this debauchery and wastefulness of emotion. It must be criminal. To hear a song more than a predetermined number of times. To say the words carelessly. To praise more than required. To hang on either end of this spectrum of life and leave a gaping hole in the middle. I can see the words inside my dreams. The inside of my mouth is coloured with their taste. I hum the tune as a background score to my life. Everyone “loves” that new spoken word poet, the new family saga novel, the new foot tapping song. I don’t. I can’t. I won’t. How are you making all that room in your heart? I don’t love it. I’m not magnanimous. I’m not suspended in the bountiful ocean of love. I’m very mucked up and ambiguous in one way or another, thank you very much. I don’t “love” Homegoing. Exit West is not breaking my heart. Homegoing is not touching inside of me chords that were left forgotten. Exit West is not startling me about the world. Of course Homegoing and Exit West are just placeholders, and you get the drift. I have come to learn to be suspicious of any kind of art that everyone suddenly “loves”. Living on superlatives and indulging in them from time to time is my idea of a good a life, but not every time. Not every time. Excuse me while I wash my hands in the middle of the stream.
“Don’t turn around, I’m not here.”
– Herta Muller
Mouse: The worst part of the evening – taking some parathas and biting into them and tasting Nutella. I’d thought they were keema parathas!
Me: We’re all monsters one time or another. What counts is we don’t remain to be.
I find myself thinking about religion and culture from time to time. I’m not dismissive of religion and I am certainly not a part of the tribe that wants religion wiped from the face of the planet so that we could live a better life. I find that immensely presumptuous and pompous. As if humans really deserve to live on this planet for ages to come. As ironical as it may sound, I am pro-religion, just that, I cannot identify what it does for me yet. I’ve given this a great deal of thought, research, and observation. I’m not speaking out of turn or without solid ground. I reserve my right to enquire, prod around and try it on to see if it fits me. If nothing, I would like to write about the Abrahamic women. At the moment, all this is just talk. At the moment, whatever happens after 6:20 in this song makes me want to be a believer.
“Sometimes the hardest thing to believe is that you are loved just as you are.”
– Jihadi Jew
“Let’s take a step back here.
And look at ourselves. Just really look at ourselves. Locked up in some treacherous hope for someone’s affection of any kind. When, in fact, this world is so big, so full of wonderful people who will care for us if we let them. We are loved right now, at this very moment in ways we cannot imagine. Our hearts are full of love and laughter and tears and God-damned iron flowing and making us one with elements of the Earth. The universe above and beyond will shed its stars for us. You. And me.
That’s the life I want to believe in.
I want to believe in sent emails, thudding hearts, opportunities to reach out and make this life whole. I want to believe in reciprocal behaviour and forgiveness.
This is the life I want to live.”
“Do not ever be afraid to tell me who you are, I am going to find out eventually.”
Loved this. How come you’re not a famous writer yet?
Thank you! 🙂
Well that’s a question I try not to ask myself. Why don’t you share it? Maybe I’ll be famous in your part of the world?
Sure! Will share it.
Thank you, Debapriyo.
Thank you, Sahil.