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(written 25 Sep 2006, when I was another person)

today, just now, infact, while scrounging through my
lovely red faux-Hermes wallet (and you know why i say faux,
it sounds better than fake, and is considered a word of beauty and
acceptance as compared to the word fake) for some change, change
for twenty to be exact, and while scrounging, i noticed a little
strip of paper, hidden, but not quite so hidden, behind
a silly passport sized photo of me, and i wondered,
whether the sudden urge for honey noodles and ice cream
had to do with the fact that the piece of
paper was probably what remained of a greedily
demolished fortune cookie.

as a rule, as a rule, i dislike fortune cookies, and
i dislike the little papers of so-called fortune in those
crunchy little flour wafers.
i dislike fortune cookies, because they feel (to me, she said in an aside)
chewy, and floury, and taste like cerelac (a taste that i could
never agree with, even when i was a child), or milk-maid,
or the creamy-textured milk powder / dairy creamer
that had become part of my life for
a few months last year.
and i dislike

those little strips of fortune because they
always have me doing something, as opposed
to my numerous Chinese meal partners,
who got to be recievers of said good fortune.
for example

“you will bring joy to many” (this was mine)

for example

“decide what you want and go for it.” (this was mine)

for example,

“a thrilling time is in your immediate future” (this, was not mine)

dislike for the fortune cookie, however, has nothing to do
with the fact that something unknown is contained within
the ample bosom of milky tasting cookies,
like words that are barely contained, about
to spill through the thick lips of an obscene beauty.

I wouldn’t know how to, in exact measure,
tell anyone at all how much I love you.

love, like poetry, is overwhelming,
and in a moment of panic,
crowded spaces and jostling torsoes
trying to keep their heads up
(like tall trees in a rain forest trying to feel the sun,
letting sunlight slip through a tangle of leaves
branches, and birdnests),
I sink-swim in the
undercurrent, navigate with
snake-like ease and gator-like sloth. Undulating bellies
choked with words I caught and held on to
with the desperation of a woman
hanging off the edge of her home,
and the strength of a man surging towards the sun.

All this, because in that crowd,
your smell seduced me.

I was looking for something else, and then I found this

I think if I listen to it enough, maybe, maybe.

It seems I found my sea monster again, and he’s dragging me into newer, uncharted depths. I can feel him, constantly, and now I no longer have to close my eyes to see him, or remember how his grip felt, when he pulled me under. I am under. I am with him. Every minute of the day, he swirls in my head, he is my drug.

I sit, watching as the worlds head to collision. Your worlds, all of yours, their multicoloured trajectories, like those multicoloured eels and sea snakes. Collisions making way to newer paths, scrapping older ideals like dead skin. Why do you struggle so much? I am only watching you from inside my monsters embrace now. He knows how long I’ve been struggling to find my way out of it. He also knows I know it’s futile. He’s smirking at me, except I love every expression he feels.

I am his, as he is not mine. I have finally reached the point of not caring. I can’t be bothered to let go of the madness even when all he might want is to shake me off. He didn’t really drag me under again, I saw him smile, and I dove in. I can’t even begin to explain how I feel. Pick up any Letters to Penthouse, you might get an idea.

when i have nowhere to go, i come here. i look at the water, and i think it’s all over, and i might as well go find a home in there. sometimes, i walk to the waters edge, and wait for something to drag me under. sometimes, i just look at the water, and wish i were in it, somehow.

i have nowhere to go now. so i’m back here. i’ve already taken off my shoes, i’m barefoot. i’ve heard of a monster that hides under the water, gently shimmering in the moonlight, like faeries were skipping across the surface. today, i don’t think i’ve anywhere else at all left to go to. tonight, it feels like i’ve done all i could possibly do. tonight smells of defeat and raw nerves, amidst moonbeams and the scent of dew on flowers, and leaves and butterfly wings. why must perfection smell of defeat? the right brain’s a bitch, she says that’s what happens when you burn too much incense. the left brain’s just lying somewhere in the dirt. i can’t so much as spark a neuron there. another place in my head wonders how i got here in the first place. but flashbacks are for grandma’s tales. and just like that, i’m standing in the water, like i have before. some six times to be exact. someone told me seven was my lucky number.

this is not a time of memories or fond farewells, i think. tonight, one of those stories about the monster in the water, i have a feeling they’ll prove themselves, like men in coming-of-age pictures. nostalgia bores me. there’s nothing here to hold me, and a world of secrets pooling around my ankles. i can’t even smell my fear. to have risen above that is to rise to apathy. and i believe apathy’s a good thing to aspire to. save yourselves, motherfuckers.

it’s been an hour. an hour of waiting, and my bluster is gone. nothing happened the last six times. there was no monster, he wasn’t coming to get me. and if there was, i just wasn’t a juicy enough meal.

but that’s when it came. the strange, long ripple cutting through the harmless circles water flies made. it was fast, and it was big. i could feel my eyes grow wider, my breath grow quicker. i could see it rising in the water. even in the dark, its shape growing darker still. it had yellow eyes. it was a real monster. snapping jaws, nostrils snorting hungrily. i would’ve loved to linger a bit longer, but then i had a job to do. and i was going to get only seven chances at this. the night is suddenly clear, free of that nervous heaviness that kept hoping for nostalgia. i pull up my crossbow, loaded with harpoon, attached to a goddamned aeroplane. he bursts out of the water, and in the moonlight he is beautiful. his large yellow eyes set within his scaly face, and his long neck, his teeth big as my arms. he is savage in his moonlit silhouette. but when his eyes find mine, i can smell his fear.  because seven really is my lucky number.

i glance up from my paper and i see this woman trying to cross the street. she’s not old, or frail, or handicapped. she’s just… frozen. it’s never a good idea to remain frozen when everything around you is moving. i learned this crossing the highway countless times while going to the airport. that was when we went to the airport and never flew anywhere. just had that Rs 5 nescafe and sat around till some cop came and chased us off, talking about life and staring at planes take off and land. we never spoke of travel somehow. there were some nationalist debates we sparked off. wondering where we were going. we, collectively, as a nation. we’d get riled up about bans and judgements. swear on our lack of indifference. i don’t know how those versions of us would’ve handled these politics now.

it makes me angry that politics takes us for granted. one of the things i heard about the Sena – My Name is Khan tussle is that the Sena already decided on disturbing peace. the producers were aware of this. that, actually, wass the stupidest thing i heard. and it came from the mouth of a Sainik. Do we allow our country to be run by delusional people who don’t understand the simple machinations of a publicity machine? PR by any definition is the simplest job as long as you know your audience. So is politics. Does the Sena know it’s audience? of course, i pick on the most trivial issues. i wonder why Shah Rukh chose to première in Berlin. such publicity fodder to open to riots caused trying to ban the film. but cynicism aside, of course the Sainiks will say that. it’s up to us to recognise a stab at saving grace.

The point of course is that we’re being oppressed, by the use of the one item that gives us unlimited pleasure as indians. it’s a different matter that the fact that Karan Johar and Sunny Deol both make awful films that work shows how desperate for escape we are as people. and the reason for this oppression is extremely pointless and quite strangely directed at one single person. why ban a movie that is the fruit of the labour of a lot of people, because Shah Rukh Khan pissed you off? should the films other ‘stars’, Kajol and Karan Johar, take morchas and violent action to the gates of Matoshree? we have a history of being a nation that is governed by people who are so distanced from the people that they wouldn’t see a problem in banning a film of a man who is hailed as the only man who could create the frenzy that Amitabh once whipped up.  using the most basic tenets of common sense, this is a dick move. for yourself, and for a large number of people. how many Shah Rukh fans played out this morning with the stress of not being able to say they saw this movie first day first show.

This is frivolous, yes. but sometimes, it is necessary. we live in the constant fear of having to say we live in a country that wasted RS. 1600 crores on a statue in the sea while it took over twenty years to build a bridge. we live in a city where a chawl in a slum is not just picked up and transported, but also ghettoised into complexes of large ten-storey buildings that have no electricity, no water supply, no lifts and not even a road leading up to it. farmers, they commit suicide, every other day, because there is little rain and the men and women we had once chose to govern us (and who would govern us still if they had their way) are busy screaming and shouting about a political scion took a local train and used an ATM [if you really thought about this, you’d realise they did it because they have no scion that would easily warm to the idea of taking the train to the Sena Bhavan]. in all this, we live, worried that our children might not have food to eat tomorrow, or water to clean that playground scrap with, or that our own lives might end during what might’ve started as a birthday celebration at a fancy restaurant. nowhere is safe, and we still wish we had another 24 hours tacked on to the day, because we must work to pay our taxes and hope our quality of life will be as shining as India herself. Which is why frivolity is necessary. so we do not turn into a state of mental breakdowns. so each of us can stick our heads temporarily down a rabbit hole of your choice. getting away can be refreshing. so one must ask, why is Balasaheb taking our escape away? doesn’t the marathi manus deserve a night at the movies?

i miss you.
i want to be needy.
i want to be clingwrap to your perishable product type self.
you don’t know pain like this. i can’t describe it. i can’t decide if it’s in my head.
i hate it because i cannot control my thoughts and that makes me breakable today.
in all this physiology, the truth that really does make women better at handling slasher flicks,
i cannot understand how you make me happy. it’s like if i’d known you earlier,
i’d have a schoolgirl crush on you. i wish i’d known you before you cut your hair,
those long haired pictures make you seem different.

i’m silly in my missive to cloudy nights,
i’m silly because i want the moonlight.

[obviously was written for someone. but how nice is it to get inspiration when you want it? and of course, who listens to women when they say they’re breakable? no one. like they say when they throw you in the deep end of the pool, it builds character.]

I’m cruel to myself. I won’t let me believe, or hope, or even wish for something to happen, because then when things don’t happen, in my infantile mind i take it all to heart, feel bad about it. Controlled, enlightened cruelty I call it.

It’s served me well. If I’d thought of it earlier, I could’ve been a different me. One that hadn’t known the pain ever, because I couldn’t have possibly known. I shouldn’t have believed him when he called me his princess or when he said he would buy me my own sandcastle, and he’d even get me a pet dragon to whip. We were funny like that. We were inventive like that. We believed that we could be who we wanted to be, and we could still be We. Or so I thought, until one night he dropped me outside my house, said he loved me, and left. I never saw him again and I never heard from him again, and I always wondered what I did. Because, I thought, whatever went wrong, We would remain no? I still don’t know, don’t understand why he disappeared. What I did. Why it had to be so sudden, why it had to be so total.

We associate being in love with a happiness that needs to be retweeted. We associate being connected to a person, being linked to a person, with love. I’m not entirely sure if I loved the boy who disappeared. I possibly didn’t. Going back, looking through correspondences [we were letter writers, poets, absurd souls who spoke each others language] I wondered why I was so sad. All of them were similar. Similar in intent. They urged me to love him, they urged me to believe we could be happy together. I don’t think he knew then, what he was getting into. Have you met the monster in me, I asked him in the margins of a letter he emailed me, and I printed it out and made scribbles. I still have it, because I like to look at it and remember that I am capable of some honesty, in expression.

I never really told him about the monster, why would I, I thought he could be talked into staying. Maybe I have Daddy Issues I never dealt with, and maybe I don’t believe that anyone can ever escape the wrath of the Monster. I don’t have a name for it. When it comes out, it takes over, I’m like a caged animal, swiping and growling and trying to hit at whatever part I manage. I’m cruellest then, to myself, after I am to others. I am, in all, a terribly uncomplicated creature rife with Freudian instances I’m sure. This one time, I threw a knife at an old lady. Luckily I’m a terrible knife thrower. It went and hit the wall six inches to the left of her ear. I’m ridiculously good with guns though. In any case, that is barely the point. The point is, my Monster, like everyone else’s comes out at most inconvenient times. Like when I need to say things I can’t say, and get frustrated at the inability to express. Like when I know I can do something but I don’t.

I always wonder if someone will leave me. I’ve a history of it. Daddy issues among other things. I like to leave first, it is part of my cruelty. But how does one time cruelty? Does one keep aside one’s considerations of sympathy and empathising with a lover or a friend? How is one friends if one can keep aside those, and how is one a lover if one can keep aside love?

The world teaches us to save face. Forever, save face. Don’t feel, because it’d be that much more difficult to have people stop feeling sorry for you when you’re left alone. My father died. Of course I understood that though I was six. The day he died I swung on the huge gate outside my grandmother’s building, with my eyes closed, and repeatedly muttered, “Please God don’t let me dad die.” I remember this because I remember thinking if I should mention a God or two in particular. How does one address God in difficult times? Do we worry about what name we call him? Do we question how many of him there are? Do we constantly capitalize His Name? I tore a sheet. I remember I tore a sheet. I screamed myself hoarse. I think my mother cried till she had no voice left. Then she got up and moved on, but she never smiled the way I remember her smiling ever again. I don’t think she’s ever smiled like that again. There are some pictures from a trip she took with my father to Pune. I think they were just married then. My mother looks loved, wanton, sensual, long hair flowing down her back, red bindi, purple sari, she glows. I know she never smiled like that because nothing ever made her happy like being with my father.

When I think of that, and when I think of me, post that boy-whose-face-I-don’t-even-remember-now leaving, I try to connect it all, and can come up with nothing. I hide, because I don’t want that pain. When I can’t so much as deal with the pain of teenage romance, how can I possibly set myself up for something deeper, stronger, with all the complications abuse brings into it? I could feel for a person all the affection in the world. I love my friends. I don’t say that lightly, I really love my friends, because they’re good people who should be loved. But I don’t suppose that affection is the same as the affection that comes from a romantic relationship. I think I could be completely honest and say I don’t know what it is. I have bartered for affection at times, in the worst way possible. Grew up scamming people for a hug, a kiss a pat on the back.

Problem with bartering for emotion being you start hanging on to people’s words, you want people to be pleased, because they’ll love you more. Show affection because everyone else was busy. And because you scammed them into that extra time, so you know forever that it wasn’t really intended. That’s a sad way to live. I stopped living like that some time back. It’s made me happier, more free. And sometimes I want to give myself the importance that someone else can’t give me. It’s not the most crowded room to be in, sometimes it’s a fairly unused construction site even. But it’s comforting, and it’s nice, and it makes me smile.

I love u