The question had twisted around my heart in such a tight knot that I was just too uncomfortable. A friend called, asking to meet up in Bandra. I called another friend asking him to meet us in Bandra, and there we were.
Friend 1 and I went to Joggers Park. I think I must have died and come back since the last time I was there. It feels so long ago. I wonder why I ever stopped going to that place in my last few years in Bandra. I would go running on Carters or Bandstand. But Joggers Park is so cute! I love it! In fact, the moment we got our tickets and stepped inside the gates, I got a sweet whiff of pink and purple flowers - those large ones with velvety petals. If memory serves me right, that scent was the same one that had got me hooked to that place nearly fifteen years ago. That place is special.
Then we went to Candies - the new one, and I must say I was impressed! I love that huge, enchanting far away tree feel to all those levels and they had some of my favorite desserts - the banana pudding, lemon yoghurt cheesecake and cute, little petit-fours made of carrot cakes and some biscotti and vanilla cream preparation. Even their chocolate lava seemed to look good - a brown crusty layer waiting to be broken into, to dip into a dense, thick chocolate filling. I had two spicy vegetarian pan rolls and a huge mug of coffee. They also gave us a few complimentary jelly squares that looked really pretty. I ate a couple. They were a bit too 'tart' (get it? get it?) for my taste.
After that, a trip to my other favorite place, Mocha Mojo. I love that joint- bright, cheery, swish and a great menu! This time I tried a mango cheesecake which, frankly, is not my favorite flavor. And it was strictly okay. I would not recommend that, though. Will have the New York cheesecake next time. Now, that is a wedge of supreme niceness.
Then, for a brief while, another friend of mine and I went to all the cinema halls like headless chicken, looking for movie tickets. But just as I had expected, we didn't get any. I was irritated, so to quiet me down, my friend bought me some real, solid comfort food - a spicy vada pav. I love vada pavs. I think it is the bestest thing in the whole world. When you bite into that crisp batter coating, then get a mouthful of the pungent, salty chilli powder and the flaming-hot potato filling - it feels like first love. Better, actually. There is no nervousness here.
After that we had an argument. So I got hungry again. We went to Sahil where I ate a little rice and dal - smoked up nice and easy with Kashmiri chillies and jeera and had the perfectly sweetened fresh lime and water. I hadn't given much thought to this before. But I can possibly count the number of times I've had good fresh lime and water anywhere. In fact, every time I used to order it in Delhi, I thought they were trying to posion me with some citrus concentrate. This drink at Sahil was so good that I was actually slurping the last drops, instead of leaving behind a half-glass (which I usually do).
Then I caught the last bus home, chatted with the woman next to me and told her about a haunted flat in Pali Hill. It's my favorite travel story. She looked rivetted enough but declined to hear any more of my spectral locutions about mansions in Panchgani.
Finally, my day ended with a nice, jaunty walk home. I love walking into my gate just before midnight. It seems like putting a fullstop at the very last spot on the very last line of a page. It seems like the perfect way to complete a segment of time that came my way.
So, I don't have the answer to what was troubling me earlier. But I think, with a little resolve and a friend who will feed you to shut you up, you do get by.
All over, all the time, all of us are doing little things to get by, to make things a little easier, to understand our place in the world...just like everybody else. And just like everybody else, we dig out a little groove to settle in - for distinction or comfort or insulation from common-ness. But sometimes its futile to hanker for that separation. And painful.
Sometimes, I think its incredible to be ordinary. Just like everybody else.
Sometimes by society - by the guy who refused to get up even though he was occupying the ladies seat, by the conductor who refused to get involved, by people around who plugged in their ipods and looked the other way.
Sometimes by friends - by those who want to know exactly how much money I'm making as a freelancer but never about how I get by, by those who know my marital situation and will want to know what's going on, but will never ask, "How are you feeling?"
Sometimes by family - by those who have loved me a little too unconditionally, so much so that I have become spoilt, by those who drive me to the point of wondering, "do I really deserve it?"
Sometimes by myself - for being so clueless for so long, for not quite making up my mind on how much drama I can handle, for being scattered and lazy, for never being focused on anything, for being indisciplined.
Not all these issues are valid. Not all of them are trivial either. Some have solid foundations. Several seem impossible to solve. All of them, unequivocally, cause a lot of anxiety and frustration. What do you do when you're at the receiving end of grave injustice? Or you are simply witnessing it?
There is so much anger that chokes the throat, that actually burns the blood. The frustration chars every prospect of hope, of change, of anything getting better.
I have a very hard time making peace with these things. At these times, I try to remember what I read in Jack Hawley's interpretation of 'Bhagavad Gita'. (It's a fantastic book. One of the very best I have read on the subject.)
There's a line in there that always causes my dust to settle, my storm to recede, and a quiet courage to take over and do what needs to be done. No questions asked, no results expected. Whether it is trekking in the night to go to a police station and talk to stonefaced constables, or hold back tears while I tell a friend I can't talk to her anymore...that line always seems to lend this sheen of honor and dignity to a situation, no matter how messy or ugly my anger has made it.
The line is, "With peace in your heart, fight your fight."
It has been an odd few days. I don't know how long it's been since I have been feeling...well...odd. It's like I have so many options, but I still feel stuck. I feel like going everywhere, but I also feel like staying on the terrace, sipping a lemon and honey concoction all day. Sometimes things happen, though, that stop the drama of dichotomy for a little while.
A couple of days ago, I had a really nice tea-time session with my neighbor. We met on the terrace and brought a couple of treats along. Mine were store-bought, of course. (Kitchen and I go as well together as Dracula and Mary Poppins - and even they have a better chance getting along.) A couple of All-American muffins from CCD and a bowl of vegetable hakka noodles made at home. My neighbor got a platter of really tasty mushroom toasts topped with slivers of strong cheese.
We chewed the fat as the weather got moody. At some point in our conversation, the light fell behind her head. In an instant, she glided from being a cheerful, mommy-to-be to this evanescent figure you'd want to see in stained glass. Her other baby joined us a little later and got very curious about the muffin. (It was nice, by the way - moist with a tea-cake texture.)
By the time we finished off the last of the crumbs, this melancholic restlessness was numbed for the time-being.
It acted up again the next day. As providence would have it, A and her husband were going to NCPA for a show that evening. She invited me along and I said yes. Wrapped up my work really quickly and headed off. Now, it was a 7:30 show and I reached VT around 5:45. So, with a long time to kill, I decided to take a bus instead of cabbing it to Nariman Point.
The bus I took was headed to Colaba bus stop, but it went via Sassoon Dock. I think the last time I'd gone there was when I was nine or ten with my father. I love docks. I hate docks. They are delciciously dangerous, with sturdy, crude men and huge ships. But that buzz of industry and 'bigness' is unmistakable. It's like watching the nuts-and-bolts side of magic. As the bus weaved in and out of narrow lanes through Sassoon Dock area, I felt a shiver up my spine! These roads were just as I remembered them - labrynthine and heavily fogged with secrets.
When I reached NCPA, though, it was still way too early. I sat in their hot waiting area where a single fan droned on. The simple 'basicness' of town is what touches me the most. There is enough money in the NCPA zone to have that spot fitted in with a hundred ACs. But that hasn't happened. And it's not een as if that place is uncomfortable. It's just slow and quiet. You get sweaty, you rummage through your handbag for a scrunchy to tie up your hair. You adjust the plastic seat to be in direct line of the fan breeze. It doesn't work. So you go into the bathroom and splash yoru face with water. You come out feeling fresh and just a little peckish. You get a cute little glass of cold coffee and a plate of samosas and the world is good again. It has always been.
I sat on my chair, taking my little sips and bites and watching the people trickle in. They were mostly over 50 and carried with them this...I don't know how to put it...this fragrance that spelt class. All wore crisp cotton or linen. There were parrot green saris with little flowers embroidered in Jaipuri pink. There were mirror-work sewn discreetly on the hem of calf-length linen skirts. There were sari blouses that were cut as formal shirts (with collars and cuffs). There were oxidized bangles with aquamarine stones and pearl studs and solitaire pendants. That 'class' that I detected? It was all muted, but unmistakable.
After a good hour of people-gazing, I got a call from my friend telling me she was running little late and could I go pick up the tickets? So I had to go around NCPA to the other side - the Tata theatre area. And the world changed. It flipped to its completely opposite side. Now, there were spotlights and young people and cameras flashing (this was all for the Cyrusitis show). There was noise and brightness. Women with glossy hair, shiny lips and patent-leather heels posed. Men with spiked, gelled hair and animal-print shirts posed. After a whole lot of posing and posturing, we all trooped inside the theatre and the show started.
Now, here was my problem with Cyrusitis. The puns were a little dated and I, frankly, have had it with jokes about North Indians. I think unless someone comes up with a new angle on this front, there must be a moratariam on the cliches. Ditto with sex jokes. But what really bothered me about this show was that it was too big. It didn't have to be. Ideally, NCPA Experimental or the Little Theatre would have been better. But the Tata theatre stage was far too huge for a show of that standing or calibre. Maybe I would have liked it more if the setting was more intimate. The way Prithvi is. This auditorium setting was too jarring.
Anyway, after the show, we dined at Le Pain Quotidien. I really wanted my friends to eat at Woodside Inn, but it was crazy crowded at the time. Le Pain Quotidien was the only place we could get a seat without waiting. A and husband seemed to enjoy their dinner, while I preferred my dessert a lot more. For the main course, I had ordered some broken wheat with tofu and roasted vegetable medley. It was nice, but a little too constructed for me, I suppose. Also, too healthy. I think the entire preparation was managed with just one teaspoon oil. And that didn't exactly gel with my mindset at the time, which was: "If there's no butter, it's all bullshit." Thankfully, the warm homemade breadpudding more than made up for it. It was wholesome, rich and tasty.
So that has been my last few days. Lengthy spans of cool darkness with scratches of brittle light.
On twelve separate occasions, I've heard men lament that women nowadays are getting more 'male'. They are more aggressive, more intolerant, more harsh, rigid, dominating and intolerant of differences. From what I see around me, including myself, I think they have a point.
Also, nowadays there is research establishing connection between a mother's emotional health during pregnancy and the health and personality of her baby. I endorse that thinking.
The sex ratio in this country is so skewed that, according to a BEST infomercial, the percentage of female population has dipped to its lowest point since Independence. It's not for me to 'believe' in female infanticide. You just have to see the number of little girls versus that of little boys anywhere - school buses, parks, malls - and it's clear. Some forms of life are not seeing the light of day.
I think that all this - chronic female aggression, state of the womb and female infanticide - is connected in a big, big way. If a foetus is in the womb of a person who is contemplating killing it or is deeply fearful and unhappy, imagine the trauma and distress that gets communicated to the unborn child. Surely it's going to have an impact somewhere. At a very deep primal level, the entity knows that its survival is at stake. Now, if per chance, the foetus is not killed and actually comes into this world, surely there is bound to be distrust. After all, it is now in a space where it faces real, acute threat. Forget about social conditioning. Even at an instinctive level, this is bound to manifest. A girl will be more aggressive and defensive to ward off attack, actual or perceived.
These defenses will exist even among women who were born earlier but are part of this shifting humanscape now. I think we all carry with us an ancestry of combating cruelty. Even if we don't know it, maybe our body senses this marginalization. Maybe everytime we see the suffering of our own kind, some primordial instinct gets activated. Maybe it gets tangled in some DNA or gets fused with nervous impulses. Maybe instinct makes these strains of hostility against men, against the world, stronger. We see the environment as a system set up for our extinction. And we behave accordingly.
I have left out culture, value system, conditioning, etc. out of my theory deliberately. All these are moot when survival itself is in jeopardy.
Really like this paragraph from Eckhart Tolle's 'Power of Now': "Your unhappiness is polluting not only your own inner being and those around you but also the collective human psyche of which you are an inseparable part. The pollution of the planet is only an outward reflection of an inner psychic pollution: millions of unconscious individuals not taking responsibility for their inner space."
I have often wondered about the concept of temporary death - something that is a few stages higher than sleep and several notches lower than the final goodbye. When one gets terribly restless or confused or just plain weary, you go some place, check into a facility and talk to someone about your situation. Based on this consultation, you decide how many days you want to pop-off for - a week, a month, two years, etc. Then you soak in a large ornate bathtub with relaxing oils and scents - maybe someone gives you a footrub at that time. Slowly, you slip - inch by inch into a state of deep, dense relaxation. You feel peace the way a scrap of cloth would feel when it is trapped in a thicket in a forest. Your final breath - your life essence - is captured in a tiny jade bottle while you pass out. This essence will be kept carefully and studied to detect traces of chronic imperfections, while you, well, lay dead.
Finally, when you come back to life, (maybe there is some more soaking in a tub or a delicious massage under a thick banyan tree), you get a report. While you were out, your life essence has been analyzed and some inferences have been drawn. You are given a picture of how your life has shaped up so far - like one of those photographs in a geological survey. You are also told exactly what you need to do to change whatever you want to change. Since you have been dead all this while, you are rested and curious and can't wait to get started.
I really wish this option were available. It's not like meditating or taking a holiday. I don't think you can truly ever take 'time off' when you are still inhabiting the same body in which you are unhappy. There must be complete cessation of the routine. And since we are creatures of habits, worshippers of homeostasis - death is the only way to clamp down on the mundane.
Alternatively, maybe there could be a gambling den. People go in there to pay high-stake poker. Either you win answers to your deep questions or else you lose yourself. That's it. Yourself - whatever it might be - that's gone. You never get out again. It's sucked out of you and you just go around waiting tables in the den forever after.
Both these measures seem extreme but I don't see the point or poetry in being clueless and messed up anymore.
1. Some nice, light soupy khichdi made with yellow and green moong and sprouts, with a side of spicy, hot samosas. I'd break up the samosas - their crisp crust and pungent potatoes and peas getting mashed with the khichdi - and eating it by a waterfront.
2. There's a quick dish that my Mum makes when I'm hungry. She chops us mushrooms and onions really fine and sautees them in butter and garlic. After all these elements are properly browned and softened (in fact, the garlic is also slightly burnt), she adds leftover cooked rice and tosses it all up nicely. After that, she adds oregano and chill flakes from unused Domino sachets, salt, pepper, a mixed spoonful of tobasco, soy and chilli sauce. She then serves this lovely browned rice with a light grating of cheese on top.
3. I don't eat meat anymore. But when I was a non-vegetarian, I loved red meat and fish. I'd eat everything else, of course, but mutton, pork and sea-food made my heart sing. I was particularly fond of dishes where two or three kinds of meats are used in the same preparation. Like large lamb chops coated and fried in an egg and beer batter, served in a thick gravy of flaming-hot mince and chunks of red pepper. Or strips of salami rolled around fresh, crunchy shrimps steamed with thyme and basil. Maybe topped with a sweet chutney - mango or apple is a good bet. Or chicken breasts filleted and filled with an assortment of chopped liver and bacon. Also, what comes to mind was a really interesting dish a neighbor used to make. She called it fish stacks. These were a sort of fillet sandwich. So, there would be some kind of a pate or meat between two fillets of fish. Sometimes, there would be crabmeat with zucchini, other times, shreds of beef or curried chicken. These stacks would then be baked and served with white sauce.
4. I often think of a really, nice, warm sweet, buttery bread pudding. It's done a little different at my house from the traditional English recipe. We butter slices of bread and coat them with a jam (my favourite is anything that's red-colored, although I recently tried a blueberry variety. Quite nice.) Then we cut them up into smaller squares. Then, we pour custard over all of these squares of bread, butter and jam and bake it. If its done well. I can't tell you how gorgeous that perfectly browned, golden topping looks. It looks like the best part of the sun got melted in there. Then when you spoon through the dish, that warm oozing custard is heavenly. It is heavenly! Little angels will dance around the rim of your dessert plate in sparkly tutus.
Thoughts of food...what can ever hold a candle to that? Maybe the actual food itself.
One time, I was in charge of a little girl, Joyce, who was making sand castles on Juhu beach. A boy, not much older than her, came by and kicked down the castle. I held him back and he started laughing loudly. Joyce, I suppose, thought that it was part of some game and chortled too. The boy's parents were eating roasted peanuts close by and smiled benignly. I didn't like what had happened but since no-one was hurt and Joyce was happy, I thought it was all okay.
The children started playing together. I went back to my book and the other parents, to their conversation. A second later, I saw that boy hitting Joyce again. Hard. I ran up to him, held back his hand and asked his parents to intervene. His father laughed and said that he was just being a boisterous boy. Joyce looked at me confused.
For a while, they played separately. Then they got back together again. The boy had found a deflated balloon and he wanted to share the treasure with his new friend. By now, I had realized that going back to the book was not an option. This boy could do some serious damage. I was already so angry that I'd decided that if the boy hit Joyce again, I would go up and slap his father. Three years ago, I was capable of that kind of anger.
Sure enough, the boy had started getting restless. The parents were laughing and egging him on to dig the sand faster or something. I think the kids were competing on who'd dig a bigger hole. There was only one spade and for some reason, niether child was using it. I knew that it was a matter of time before Joyce would reach for it. Maybe the boy would hit her again then.
So I went up to her, looked at her and the boy's parents and said loudly, "If he hits you again, you hit him back." There was something in the way I'd spoken that was so menacing. I didn't even recognize my own voice then. Joyce looked at me, blank. The boy hadn't heard me. But the boy's parents had finally sensed something. They stopped chatting and laughing and kept looking at me. I could have deflected the situation right there. I could have smiled and laughed it off. I could have said, "Just joking..." But I didn't. I kept staring at them.
Just then, the boy started yelling that he wanted to take the spade. His parents, simply got up, dusted off sand from their seats and dragged their son away.
Many times I have wondered if my reaction was not excessive. I wondered if at moment, had I not taught Joyce, a three and a half year old, to get defensive.
Years ago, I had a friend who worked in a small ad agency. His office was a small, pokey room near Bandra station, but they did some great work there. One day, he took me in to watch a social ad campaign against domestic violence.
The ad is set in a classroom with lots of little boys, around six or seven years old. It's recess and everybody's tucking into their tiffins. A group of them is pelting each other with paper balls. In the corner of this class, we see a boy eating by himself. One of these crumpled paper balls hits him. He stops eating and walks up to his 'offender'. He flicks his tie back so that it doesn't get in the way. Then he drags the other boy down and punches him fully in the face - again and again. There are tight close-ups of him hitting and I remember feeling cold at the kind of rage this child had registered. We see the other child get a bloody nose and a split lip. We see the punches continuing to rain, interspersed with the aggressor's face. Then the screen goes blank with the message: 'He's just another boy...who wants to be like his father when he grows up.'
I often wonder whether I did the right thing at the beach. But I was scared then. You never know who your child will have to protect herself against. It's best if they start young.
I wonder if its because my stomach looks a little flat today. Or because I saw a ginger colored cat on the way home. Or the water in the lake stretched out like a large, liquid onion peel in the light. I don't know what it is, but I feel like sharing something beautiful and unknown with the world.
So, here it is - a paragraph from the novel 'Anywhere but here' by Mona Simpson. (I'm simply savoring that story. It's been several weeks of reading and re-reading portions and not yet finishing.)
As luck would have it, I cannot locate that piece now. Oh well, I suppose it must lie somewhere in all those pages - like a little perfect diamond in a huge, dust bowl. The book is all the more luminous because of it.
I am thirty-two years old now and I think I may have interacted with approximately 8,000 people in my life so far. Interacted with some amount of closeness, that is. I am not very sure how I have arrived at this number but I think that this may be quite correct. Now, what defines as close? Maybe a good conversation. Or at the very least, a memorable interaction. Yes, it's the latter. As a child and a teen, I didn't exactly talk much. But I do remember people responding to me more easily.
So, I remember that sullen girl in college who would scowl at everyone and worship Shobha De. One day we were waiting outside the college for something. She pulled me to one side and pointed at some distant spot in the sky. It was the first time I saw a large, grey cloud rushing towards our area and drenching that place in rain. She had gone back to poring over 'Socialite Evenings'.
I also remember a little girl from my childhood. I was in the fourth standard and had gone to some place in Delhi where I had my first elephant ride. This girl and I had spoken about our favorite teachers. Both taught English, by the way.
I remember the little boy whose name started with K. He was in the same nursery class as me and he kissed my hand every day I left for home.
Then I remember...
There are plenty. Now, I feel that maybe there are too many. Maybe I was born with a medium-sized slate and I wrote down every person's name on it. After I ran out of space, I continued to scribble, writing their names in tiny, ant-like handwriting, getting them to fit in the corners. I don't like how the slate looks anymore. Maybe I should completely wipe the slate clean and then write out one name after another in measured, equal-sized writings. Keep it neat.
So, what I am thinking of doing is completely retreating from the world. Delete all numbers, snap all contacts with friends, give up all existing freelance assignments and take up new ones. Then, take three months to mull over each name, each contact, each friend, each memory. Hold it in the light to see if it shines. Feel it in the dark to figure out if touch makes a difference. Following this exercise, who or what makes my world fuller - that name gets written out carefully on the blank slate again. Or else, it stays out.
Maybe it is also time to close the blog for a while. Maybe do some kind of housekeeping here as well. Maybe it's time to shut the doors and let things be quiet and rested.
I was feeling so hungry a half-hour back. Looked through the fridge for something that would go with my black coffee. There were a couple of chocolate donuts, which were 'meh'. A large scrap of Kabuli naan. But this naan isn't from Copper Chimney, Worli, so I am not really interested. Bread from that place was my absolute favorite as a child. I remember being fascinated with the see-through kitchen, with chefs flailing large flaps of dough, as if testing the flight of magic carpets. Then the naan would come in a huge wicker basket, sweetened with dry fruits and seasoned with black jeera. I used to fold and dip that in black daal, all the time feeling like I'm eating shreds of a magic flying carpet. I was always ready for a take-off after every meal. Unfortunately, the only place I did take-off to was the toilet. Black dal can be heavy!
Anyway, getting back to the fridge. So, the Kabuli naan didn't cut it. There were a couple of soya cutlets that looked too dry. A bar of nutribar looked desolate in its music-video-type garish wrapping paper. Finally, I spotted it. A little bowl of sevaii.
I didn't want anything too milky and thankfully, this vermicelli preparation was not a kheer. It was browned and toasted well in ghee and sugar, tossed about with some elaichi and badaam and that was it. The best part was that the sevai was not too clumped. It still had a good bite to it. And it wasn't too sweet, so I could enjoy the bitterness of my fresh, roasted coffee. And it wasn't too soggy, so it looked real pretty in the light-blue bowl.
Just finished it. It was nice. So nice. The fridge indeed hides many a spelndored thing.
I feel sad tonight. At yoga today, when we did the Chaitanya asana (or the Shavasana, as it is more popularly known), the instructor asked us to visualize ourselves as a little drop that falls into the ocean and becomes one with it. This instructor, usually, flounders for correct words to explain postures and breathing techniques. But this segment she conducted with remarkable fluency. Her voice reverberated with relief, almost. I could sense that this imagery means something to her. Her comfort, with not just going there but taking the entire class to that place, indicated that she must have made that trip several times.
I feel sad because last three days were so sharp, full and happy. I met so many friends who made time for me at short notice. In fact, it felt as if time was stretching itself to inlcude a soiree or a party for me. I would leave from Hiranandani around 8 p.m. to go to Bandra and get dinner with a pal and then dash to catch the last bus home. Or I would leave from Vashi to go to Peddar Road, while away a few beautiful hours looking at sunsets, then go to Haji Ali, then cab it to Bandra for a meal, then rick it to Juhu beach for some falooda, then catch the last bus home.
It's luscious. This life. My life. Last few days have been so grand - in terms of great watershed conversational moments. I have had breakthroughs over a wedge of apple-pie with ice-cream, or a dish of creamy, vegetarian lasagna. My friends have proferred insights over cheese sandwiches and coffee at Jaslok and then exquisite cream and mangoes at Haji Ali. They have held my hand and told me to 'get on with it' as I chomped on popcorn in cabs whizzing through the Worli Sea-Link. They have urged me to be patient and just 'hang in there' as I ate up my caramel custard in Hotel Sahil in tiny licks. I have tried to figure out the next few months while gulping down sugarcane juice. I have tried to make peace with unpleasant memories eating a Lay potato chip, one groove at a time.
Yesterday, I finally lay down sated with every single morsel of time. Crumpled bedspreads, cool bedclothes, and eyes heavy with sleep. My heart was soaring. It was so ideal - this peace of living in a city where, no matter where I am, I have someone to have coffee with. Some food that is tasty enough to make me forget about waste-land type uncertainties. Lanes and roads that are a little new to be exciting and a lot familiar to be comfortable.
I feel sad today because all this - all THIS - will intermingle tomorrow. It has already started melding into reminiscences that have the profiles of watercolors. So 'much' is fast becoming the drop that will fall into the ocean and end.
Never mind. So far I am just glad that my lane finally has street lamps. I sometimes walk from Vashi depot to my home around 12:30 p.m. and there's my lane - all bright and cheery, mimicking wide daylight. It's happy.
Irrespective of tonight's sadness, the drop is happy. Maybe the ocean will be glad too.
I have joined a yoga camp this month. It is a 30 day program that takes place near my home. For six hundred rupees a month, it is quite a happy investment. This is my third time at this yoga camp. My favourite batch so far has been the first one, though. The first time I was taken through the paces of sitting properly, breathing properly, and doing the bhushirasana. I am not a big fan of inverted poses, although they are the quickest way to get my arms and calves in photoshoot shape. I have dabbled on and off in yoga for a while now. It started when I was in Pune. I had a really good teacher then. In fact, I've had some really good yoga teachers since then. The teachers in Bandra were really good. That is the one thing I have started missing most about Bandra. My yoga class. I can always get my Carter Road, Bandstand fix whenever I want. But the yoga class is a little out of reach.
I leave for the yoga classes at 6 a.m. It's a little later than what I am used to, but it will do. It's a twenty minute walk from home. I usually take the lanes by the little marsh behind the house. It's a longer route but a far prettier one.
Stepping out of the house at six is perhaps the best thing I do for myself throughout the day. I love summers. I love everything about it, including the heat. It brings out the shy sweetness of the soul. At times, I think we are all melons. With summer, all our layers get peeled back to free our essence. It’s all fragrant and lush.
Oh, and the colours! They are exceptional! On the way, there is a kind of a wasteland. There is a tree that has the most vivid, eclectic blooms. From a distance, the flowers look like little bow-ties and they come in a stunning palette – orange, purple and pink. At times, saffron sunlight peeps in through the interwoven leafwork. That spot is stunning.
Then, I take a lane that is lined with laburnums that seem to be decorated with strings of gold coins. Usually, there’s a nice, cool breeze.
By the time I reach the class, I am already peaceful and happy. Sometimes, even just an hour later, the daily aggravations begin. But that twenty minute walk – seemingly through an endless, beautiful world – is just what the doctor ordered.
When people are special, they make you do corny things. I had once ordered a cake in the shape of a pentagram with my picture in the centre. It was supposed to be a play on my special ones’ name, Hex. It was also supposed to be a cheeky allusion to how I felt about him.
Since his name was Hex, the pentagram-shaped cake with my picture in the middle meant that “he had put a hex on me”. Yes, it was sort of a labored concept. Hex had already smudged and licked the butter-lemon frosting before I was through explaining the theme.
Hex had little patience or use for explanations. Although Lord knows he evoked the requirement for so many of them. He seemed to wear little badges of quirkiness that people would want to know more about. Like why he called himself ‘Hex’ when his name was ‘Harsh’. He hadn’t even known what ‘Hex’ really meant. He’d thought it was short for ‘Hexagram’, as if that explained everything. But ‘Hex’ suited him. Not his ‘Hex’ of ‘Hexagram’, but my ‘Hex’ of bewitchery.
I first saw him in an empty, dark gym. It was late at night and only a few models had access to the gym at that hour. Usually, the other models would dutifully pound the treadmill no matter how late it was. Not me. I’d simply go to stretch a little bit, maybe do a few lunges or squats and come home. It was important for the body’s buzz to quiet down and running never helped me any.
That night, there was a full, pregnant moon. It was so big and bright that it looked like it was hung on stage. I entered the gym, not really expecting to find anyone. But isn’t that how it usually goes? That’s exactly when you run into a person you’ll never want to leave.
Hex stood by some treadmills, looking at the moon through a French window. The steel in the room – handles, bars and twisted pieces of equipment seemed to have been wiped down with milk and pearls. Moonlight stuck heavily onto curtains that Hex had drawn back. He stood there lithe, supple and smooth – like the uncreased reflection of a pond. He stood there with a foolish, half-smile that would make me do corny things in times to come. There was something so elfin and mystical about the guy – that no matter where in the world he was, he’d always be surrounded by unicorns.
I don’t really remember how we came together. I definitely had my defensiveness intact. My interactions with people saw me cloaked in a carefully crafted coat of thorns. But I suppose it was different with Hex. He had cared enough to ask if I was comfortable having that coat draped around my shoulder. Would I like to put it down for just a minute? Soon enough, I’d taken off the coat and left it somewhere.
One of our favorite places to meet was a small, pokey ‘coffee club’ by the sea. If you believed what the world spoke of our ilk, we lived life in the fast lane. However, at this seaside spot, on rickety white chairs, we stepped of the fast lane for a bit. We took a parallel road. On the move, sure, but not where the action was. Not where the traffic stopped.
Also, I was besotted with hair colour. Many of our coffee sessions had me speculating on what color streaks to go in for. One afternoon, Hex squinted at the sea dazzling in the sun and suggested grey. “Tackle old age head on”, he quipped. I didn’t tell him then, but I made up my mind to do exactly that. Get streaks of dull, washed-out grey like the wise, sage sea.
I think I loved Hex because he tried to make me brave. Of course, his methods, like much the rest of him, belied reasoning. But I enjoyed that. I enjoyed being his funny project. I liked how he would scrape through grooves of my psyche and keep the grit under his fingernails until he figured out how to wash it off.
One day, he ordered a cup of hot chocolate and insisted I spill it. This was supposed to heal a childhood trauma of when my father had flung scalding hot chocolate on my face. I think he saw my profession as an emblem of slavery and triumph to that memory. I didn’t mind this childish simplification. It made me proud to know that he was proud of me.
Today, I wait for him at our coffee jaunt. I’ve been doing this for a year now. Although I hated separating from him, I am glad it was a sudden break. It would have been difficult to get through otherwise. In my time with Hex, I had become so unshielded that saying goodbye would have ripped me through, leaving my viscera to fester.
Hex comes in now, carrying his fiancée’s shopping bags. They sit at “our” spot. I usually leave it for them. She’s pretty, with brown hair and oval pointy nails. They laugh over something and he orders the beverages. Meanwhile she attends to a call and says, “I’ll be late. I’m with Harsh now.” Their drinks have arrived. Harsh has the hot chocolate.
The accident last year changed both of us so much. Until then, I didn’t think Harsh would ever stop playing with unicorns. Look what it made him.
But then again, until then, I didn’t believe in ghosts either. Look what it made me.