I freeze in my tracks to stare at the number.
I didn’t want to see that jet black car
Driving past me.
You consumed my every thought.
A loss I couldn’t swallow?
A life without your embrace?
I took a deep breath and shook my head;
It was a hallucination of your familiar silhouette
No, it wasn’t you.
There is this emotion
that envelopes like
I have never known.
A feeling so enchanting
that each moment
would feel like home.
I couldn’t imagine how I knew
for its a something
I have never called my own.
A part of me
fell through the cracks.
But to survive on the other side.
It was this same feeling.
The one popularly called
A savage beast was she? Not really. She just fluctuated between too angry, angry and not angry enough. Stranded in a public place in an apathetic crowd. Less angry. More angry. Outrage. Way too much anger. She repeated to herself: Calm down. Yes. Calm. Down. Instead she stood jolted in public place as she heard someone tell her to not be angry. Don’t be angry here. Don’t be angry now. Don’t be angry with me. Don’t be angry.
Not volatile. Not demented. Not crazy. Just fed up of ‘having a sense of humour’.
She’s the one with unkempt hair that looked like hay on most days. The colour faded from all her travels. Her demeanour was sunny and dynamic. Yet, she never got attached to anything. She couldn’t stay still long enough to get attached. It was why she never bought property; she wished to remain free. She moved like a nomad. City to city. Looking for adventures. She never allowed relationships to begin and so she never feared their end. She didn’t measure happiness like us regular folk. She felt it in her veins and did everything in her capacity to continue doing so. Nobody who met her really knew her; none of them had a unkind word to say.
She slept in a new bed ever so often. A house rented in a remote corner of the world gathering dust. Unstable, unorganised jobs she didn’t keep track of. Taking a break only to earning enough to furnish her moving lifestyle. Sometimes, one wondered how she made ends meet. But she wasn’t the type to indulge in fishy acts. Her intention was pure. She never revealed even a hint of anything else.
She told every new person a new name. Sometimes Sheena or Keah or Loli or Prerna or Gabrielle. Whatever fancied her in that moment. Even in the course of one night at a pub, everyone she encountered were told a new name. A new story. There was nothing tangible about her but her stories. Nobody even knew her real name. In fact, she was not real for many. Just a vision or a feeling in their heart. So strong and fierce that once she entered their lives they yearned to live like her. But they couldn’t manage that.
She gave up roots that were so hard to get rid of. She belonged everywhere. She abandoned long term strings. She didn’t believe in people as safe harbours to dock her ship. When she spoke about the villagers who let her into their homes and hearts, about the secret hidden treasures of each city, everyone marvelled at the beauty hidden in the world that she was grasping, relishing. But the choices she made and the decisions she took felt like sacrifices to everyone else. To her, it was living the small voice in her ear, in her mind, in her heart.
No. She wasn’t alone. Her life was coloured by the people she met. The fleeting for others was deep and intimate for her. She wrote about these people in her diaries that she carried with her everywhere. The diaries also contained names that pleased her. She embraced them as her own. Sometimes, she fell in love with cities and people living in those cities. For what was a place without its people. But she only prolonged her visit; she never stayed.
Every strength or flaw she possessed, she bore them proudly on her skin. She revealed more than others could see. If only they heard or read her stories carefully.
I felt homesick. Sick to my gut a couple of times but mostly just exhausted from dealing with this emptiness. I arrived very late for my morning literature class. My professor asked me, “Are you unwell, Seema?” I was stunned. What could I say? Was homesickness a real thing?
I nodded. Finally.
“Oh! What happened?”
“I feel homesick.”
“I can’t send you to the nurse for that, Seema. You will have to suffer through this class then.”
I slunk into my chair and for the rest of the hour just twiddled my thumbs. The professor didn’t pull me up for my distracted behaviour. At the end of the hour, I was still lost in my own thought. I lived at home. It had a roof, a few walls and warmth. For the most part. It kept me safe from cold and rains.
But I was homesick.
I read about home and imagined it in ways like it didn’t exist. Not like mansion like in the fairy tales or the ones filled with hope. Just this one didn’t meet my expectations and I longed to go to places or be places where this sickness in my gut vanished. Even momentarily. I travelled in this hope. To other towns, villages, beaches, mountains and no woman or man’s land. Constantly searching for a glimpse of home.
Have I missed it somewhere here? In the arrogance of home being anywhere but here?
The scenes I saw
of an architect’s dream;
incomplete sketches of a final plan.
As I lived
Complete and worth little.
that led me astray;
half a world away.
As I lived
in between my dreams.
Do all stories start and end like this? Not the ones about love. No, not even heartbreak. The others: the lustful one; the post traumatic stress one; the serendipity one; the vengeful one. Are there more? Oh yes, the ones yet to come. Will they begin with the sound of a bell and halt with a screech?
In similar sounding ways? Hiding behind metaphors or devour me whole?
There were no doorways or sneak peeks to the other stories. Perhaps, they too will reverberate with sights, sounds, smells and emotions of the past giving the illusion that it was all the same.
I walk through this small settlement(?) everyday, both on my way to and back from work. It is a narrow lane with houses on either side. Initially, I was reluctant to walk through. But it was the shortest route to work and I was a bit lazy. After having walked through it for a period of 10 months it feels less invasive and more warm. During the morning time, the path was full of activity; the air smelt of cow dung. I have only a handful times spotted the men. Even then it is usually smoking at one of the ends of the settlement. The women were all out rushing either to fill water on water days or washing clothes or vessels or putting the moggu outside their home before they head out. These mundane tasks often performed in private were done by these women in the midst of the people passing through. They offered everyone who locked eyes with them a smile and went about their business. These women unknowingly broke many of my stereotypes about tasks that must preferably be performed indoors. They didn’t intend to; I didn’t know I had them. But by making me uncomfortable and occupying that space with such grace and dignity, I realised the biases I held.
The settlement, though, transformed in the evening. A quiet place with a few kids playing and surprisingly, the smell of Maggi. The kids always looked at me and smiled the biggest of smiles. It sent warmth gushing through me.
I can’t travel to and fro from work in any other way, now. I needed those smiles. The ones of the women in the morning and the kids in the evening.
Watching the sun rise or set in the water. Finding a really old version of a book I was looking for. Reaching the bus stop and getting an empty bus immediately. Travelling alone to enjoy the voices in my head. Writing. Baking a cake for someone I love. Reading a book and forgetting the bad day I was having. Finding a song that says everything on my mind. Sitting with someone and reading in silence. Going for a swim. Drinking endless cups of coffee. Talking about negotiating and challenging my comfort zones with select few. Waking up with the gentle licks of the dog. Cooking myself a delicious meal. Sitting on the terrace and watching the planes fly by. Magically meeting every deadline at work. Getting published. Being followed by a random dog on the street that stops after being petted. Finding an old letter that is filled with love. Sharing a private moment in a public place. The thrill of watching my favourite episode of my favourite television serial with my favourite person. Getting books as a default present from anyone who knows me even a little. Boisterously laughing without a care in the world. Drinking for the joy of drinking.
These are a few of my favourite things.
I wanted to say so much. Yet I said so little. My tears flowed instead. I told myself I wouldn’t cry. Anymore. But I did.
‘Starting over? Again?’
‘How do you know?’
‘The tears must seem familiar to you. The first time is surprising.’
‘Fourth time around, it is reassuring. Reminds me I can still feel.’
‘That feeling leaves. Eventually, you have to deal with the change.’
She was just a stranger. A kind one who shared her learnt wisdom.
‘It has been learnt and now engrained in my memory too.’
Soon, that would be a memory too.