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I have always felt like I wanted to freeze some moments for eternity or whatever it is that lasts forever. Not just a mental picture of the moment but the emotions and people that comprised the moment. When I look at my childhood photographs, I find the emotions in the photographs always led to long retellings. Most of the time, I don’t remember the people in the frames.

People change as does everything, I just wanted to grow older.

If I happened to find a photograph at random, on the road or in a house I rented, it would be more of a mystery. The photograph is of no value to me Neither are the memories captured in it.

But, I avoid getting to the point and digress. 

If only there was a way to make each memory from every photograph come alive and play a few seconds of those moments before you. Then, when I am 90-years-old and senile, I will still be able to remember the moments that I wished to immortalise.

Slide on next to me, just another memory, to keep me company.

But doesn’t that take away a little bit from the essence or magic of a photograph. The many layers to it apart from what the frame essentially reveals? I presume so. I cannot help but wish to be a speck on the wall of not just the memories that I have created but also the many others in the photographs that I passively encounter. It just seems like a memorable journey to take, through the frames of people’s lives and their memories.

For, the saddest and happiest moments always seem worth reliving.

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Good moods, bad moods and the passage between these two was where I spent all my time. Unlike the others, she never begged me to be ‘normal’, even occasionally. She knew my personality couldn’t accept such demands.

One day, we took a drive to relax. She asked me about my plans for the long weekend. I snapped. There was no provocation but I did. Knowing my habits fully well, her reaction was composed. The lack of a reaction made me angrier. At that moment, I wanted her to be angry and fed up of my irrational ways. But she wasn’t. On the contrary, her face looked serene. I fell silent and so did she. The drive continued without a syllable being exchanged. Her silence, though, was one of understanding; mine was erratic and adamant. I had no reason to be angry. I should be grateful someone understood without trouble. Even on her bad days, she was curt but never did she break. How did she manage it? I have always wanted to ask her but my giant ego got in the way. Despite a friendship of many years, I couldn’t dare admit she knew me better than I knew her. She had the ability to brush such notions off without a second thought. I held onto them and wondered, why don’t I react that well?

The fact of the matter is simply that some people are better attuned to others. That’s all there is to it. The compulsion I felt to measure everyone the same way, expecting all reactions to be similar was foolish. As I thought of her, I remembered that smile. It wasn’t all knowing or arrogant. It was merely welcoming of my mood, exactly as it was. She felt unreal at times like those. I refused to believe someone could be that accommodating of human flaws. Cynical me.

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He stood his ground, yet no one truly understood his tough image. He wasn’t cold. But in brief moments of vulnerability, his personality pierced through. Else, his nonchalant exterior mirrored merely his aspirations.

His composure was what attracted me to him. That and his ability to listen. Our understanding has had numerous steep patches. To be fair, between our individual silences lay a world of truth. Words we were unwilling to share with the other. But those fleeting glances into his soul were enough to shake my very being. He didn’t notice my intrusive stares. If he did, he didn’t show any sign of anger. Anger that I presumed he would feel from my presence in his personal thoughts. I refrain from using words like mind or heart as I find it slightly nauseating in this context.  I personally have strived to keep others at a distance to ensure the struggles of my mind remain private. So I could imagine the unease he would feel.

On a positive note, we didn’t need to discuss this inert need we shared to maintain privacy. I wondered if he took peeks into my personality during similar moments of exposure. Much like me, he never brought it up.

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I dug around for a dictionary. Why was I told I needed it so often? I flipped the pages till I came to ‘clo’. The dictionary defined closure as: The thing that closes or seals something. I thought to myself, a definite ending is never a given right? Things could change over time. Endings could be restarted; it has happened before. Even to me. Then what was so special about closure? Did I merely have to fool my mind into pretense? If I already knew it was pretense, how do I pull off a successful fake?

I wondered.

I walked out of my house for a stroll. I thought I would go to the beach nearby. The sound of the crashing waves and the sight of the endless waters made me feel small and insignificant. In a pleasant way. It seemed to fill me with faith. I haven’t spent enough time analysing why it is so. The beach was a short walk from my house and easily accessible. The beaches in Bombay have always been full of activity and people. Couples cuddling, vendors selling food, families enjoying the sand and water. I loved the expanse of human emotion one encountered. Occasionally, I would see a fellow wanderer with a similar look of calm on his/her face. Somehow, just the knowledge that I was not alone made me smile.

I sat on a pile of rocks as I stared into the sea. The sound of the waves combined with the smell of the sea drowned out the other noises. It submitted to my wandering thoughts. Was it only denial? I could give myself the closure I needed; then why was I holding on? Was I scared? Just scared to accept the truth in its entirety, I guess. Funny as it seems, I knew all this subconsciously. Yet, a tiny part of me was not willing to accept it. It was still connected to the past and the very same piece of me needed these thoughts to be articulated.

It wasn’t a new place I found myself in. It was a space that was neither in the past nor here in the moment; I was merely lost in my own selfish experiences. Maybe acceptance would eventually lead to closure. Currently, I set myself on the path from fear to acceptance. If I rated myself, I wouldn’t be too far from fear. Maybe, I could will it to change.

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“It has happened,” she said.

“What?” I dared to ask.

“I have found it!” she exclaimed.

“What?” I persisted.

“Enantiodromia!” she said.

My blank expression spoke louder than any word in the English language. Other than the one she had just uttered, if it was a word.

“Recently, I have been digging real hard for a word to explain accurately the change in my life. Transformation somehow didn’t fit well. Change was just not rounded enough. And voila, I have found the word that fits my needs to perfection. Enantiodromia!” she said.

The blank look continued to adorn my face and she resisted to explain why she had chosen such an unheard of word. “Oh, Ritu! It means changing of something into its opposite,” she said.

Suddenly, her enthusiasm began to make sense and my expression changed to one of understanding. Not so long ago, Sarah had been a hyper and outgoing child. Having known her for many years closely, her change was gradual and I was always in sync. But for many others, the switch from outgoing to private was one that did not make sense. They warned her it was bad company. They scared her saying it was denial. She even spent many hours reassuring herself it was normal. But honestly, I believe she had learnt to choose her company wisely and this was a more suited option for her. She spent less time hurt and more time doing the things she loved. Eventually, she was able to drown out the voices of what others felt about this change. She had been able to embrace it. The word was like icing on her own discreet cupcake.

“You should have said that right in the beginning,” I said as I tugged at her teeshirt sleeves lovingly. We both laughed in the knowledge of our little secret. Enantiodromia, I repeated to myself. It felt clandestine rather than a word used in English. I couldn’t articulate why. Time to look for more words?

Inspired by: Unusual words rendered

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Read part one here

Forced to go to school, Dee grumbled every morning. Ma was worried; her powder had merely forced Dee to stay in class. It hadn’t fixed the problem. She needed to find a long term solution. She racked her brains trying to imagine how attending classes could be fun. She realised the problem lay in the approach to learning and the method of teaching.

That day when Dee returned from school, Ma had designed a new game for her. She closed Dee’s eyes and led her into her room. In the room she found her solar system had come alive. There were balls of many shapes and sizes suspended in mid-air. Mesmerised, Dee ran towards them. But they rose higher than her reach. She looked from them to her mother to see the firm eye contact she maintained.

“Do you know how many balls are here?” she asked. Dee began to count out loud, “One.. two… three… four.” She stared blankly at her mother after. “Come. We will count together. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine!” Ma said. She clicked her fingers to increase the number of balls. Dee looked at the floating balls with her mouth wide open. With two consecutive clicks, Ma separated the balls based on their colour. A quick Math game was before them. Ma sat with Dee and used the balls to finish her Math homework. English wouldn’t be so much fun. But Dee got into a rhythm and worked meticulously.

At the dinner table, Dee asked, “Where did you learn these tricks?” Ma told her the story of a stormy night without power for several hours. She had wondered out of her house by herself. There, she bumped into an old lady who was starving. She brought her home and fed her a modest meal. The lady was grateful and as a thank you had given Ma her families oldest secrets with a solemn promise, “To use them scarcely and use them well.”

Ma had never before used them till the day she had caught Dee lying. Dee listened to her mother earnestly. She wondered if they would relish these secrets everyday. She couldn’t ask as that would ruin the surprise. But at least this way, she was now a believer in magic.

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She went to school everyday. What choice did she have at the age of six. Her mother wouldn’t take her seriously. So, she dragged herself to school day after day. What was fun about sitting in class all day and listening to a few teachers drone on? 2 + 2, I have a blue hat. It all seemed too boring for her. She wanted to climb trees and chase rabbits down holes. She wanted to watch birds fly in and out of trees. She wanted to stare at people doing their work. But she was forced to stay indoors and listen.

Late one night, she lie awake in bed staring at her glow-in-the-dark solar system. She realised she could go to school but never attend the classes! This thought helped her fall asleep. In the morning, she skipped off to school without a complaint. Her mother stared at her bounce off to the bus stop; ma waved back at the surprisingly eager child. Ma was suspicious as Dee whined every morning and reluctantly trudged off to school. She duly followed the bus to school to find out for herself. There, she noticed her daughter waddle off the bus and run off to climb some trees. Unable to find a way to bring it up appropriately, she quietly went back home. That night as little Dee slept peacefully, Ma sprinkled some of her famous powder in her hair. She muttered the magic words and tiptoed out of the room. Dee woke up unaware of the magic that took place in her sleep. She kissed Ma on her cheek before running off to school. She hopped, skipped and jumped off the bus and into an old tree. She hung from the branches all day long. On returning home, Ma asked, “What did you study today?” “We learnt to add and subtract,” Dee replied. Just as the words left her mouth, her hands got spotted with dark brown moles. “Don’t you lie to me, Dee. You didn’t attend class, did you!” Ma screamed. “I did! I did!” she replied scared.

The moles continued to multiply till there were more brown spots than skin. Dee wailed as she couldn’t understand what had happened. Ma calmed her down and told her, “I saw you skip classes yesterday, so I cast a spell on you. Lie you must not about going to school, Dee. So each time you lie, you will develop five moles on your body. They will vanish only if you don’t lie for several hours.” Dee stared wide eyed at her mother. She was trapped. She couldn’t lie anymore.

Oh! How am I going to get out of school now, she thought to herself.

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How does one ever track which moments to remember and which ones to forget? When do memories turn sour to unwanted? She didn’t know. She stared at her wall of memories. It was full of paintings, pictures, post cards and signposts. Many of which were irrelevant in her life at this point. She imagined at a later point, it wouldn’t necessarily be so.

Many times, people walked in and out of her life. She hadn’t chosen to close doors completely; leaving them ajar had led to increased work for her. Yet, bolting them shut never occurred to her. She ran a quick glance over that painting as she took it down. Try as she might, it reminded her of a path she was not willing to take. She wrapped it up and put it into a box. She taped it up and scribbled on top, “Open when already depressed”. She even managed a giggle as she put that exclamation point at the end.

How many times before had she willingly allowed herself to be hurt? Too many to count? Physical injuries were so tangible that she didn’t dare repeat the errors. The mental ones pacified her into tolerance. They goaded her into acceptance and reminiscence. She felt overwhelmed. Is it truly so hard to judge and quantify heart ache? Then, how does one judge which memories to let go off and which to hold onto?

She stared at her wall, now with the missing painting. The void spoke eloquently and coherently; the absence could still be felt.

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Today, I cannot seem to think clearly enough to write fiction. My head is full of the numerous rape articles I have read, the tweets condemning it, the FB posts expressing anger and many others. Yet, I know, the papers will soon go back to lesser coverage and this sadness I feel will reduce. It is a twisted cycle in my head right? I am upset by the coverage and soon enough will be upset by the lack of it. I believe in the concept of hyper-visibility, which is when a topic becomes ‘breaking’ news for a while and then fades away with time. Soon enough, something fascinating is bound to come around.

In such situations of anger, the answers demanded are quick and immediate. The responses are too knee jerk (with so many asking for death penalty and castration). I am sorry but my comprehension is tired. I do not want to read yet another badly analysed piece on rape. I want change in processes, police and government. I want media’s stereotyping of women to stop. I want advertising to modify its stance. I want to have the rights over my own body. I want sensitivity not sensationaltv.

A friend of mine wrote a nice piece questioning and re-thinking rape culture. Ever since then, I have been thinking about all the not-rapes we encounter, the definition of rape in our laws, the identifying of what is a violation and what is not. Somehow, I am told that stalking is too loose a term and can be misused by women. And this is a statement I have heard a lot.  After all how can you measure too much mental torture right? It is sad that we have put in place such limited ways of addressing violence. Until we find a way to address the everyday violence that girls, boys and women go through, it is going to be a tough task to deal with ideas like reducing rape. (Read Nilanjana Roy’s piece here)

I cannot offer any solutions but I certainly will try to not dismiss the violence that is not-rape anymore. Cause creating spaces where the survivors can not be judged is still something we desperately need to put into place. I spent many years convincing myself that I had done something to bring those experiences upon myself. I hope to now unlearn what I was taught and teach myself a new lesson; violence of any kind is unacceptable. And oh wait, silence too.

 

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Saying goodbye is not easy. The uncertainty of when you will meet next makes it tougher.

Occasionally, we encounter people who we can share our deepest thoughts with. Saying goodbye then, at any moment, is tough. And mostly results in a few tears. It isn’t just about the love we share or our lucid connection. It is the want to spend more time in the others’ company. It is the basic wish of wanting to share each others stories and being around the other, a little while longer. It is a different sort of feeling this and I am torn to express it accurately.

I met a few friends for a couple of days and our conversations were as always interesting. I leave feeling a little closer to them, yet, I feel a part of me is very unhappy. Time, space, friends, love are not things I take for granted. (I try not to!) But the ability to set things free and live happily in these shared hours is one I find difficult. At the end of the meeting, I am delighted our lives crossed paths and I will forever have that space to return to. We will continue to create such new spaces wherever we travel to, taking our relationship along.

I feel unsatisfied with this arrangement. I want more. It isn’t a lot to ask is it? Just more time and space together. The rest would come naturally. But our lives, our careers, our ambitions, our dreams, take us far away from each other. Ironically, only in time and space. Our hearts, souls and thoughts stay intimate and close. So what am I complaining about? My words can’t explain it. But the confusion I feel is real. Very real.