Saturday, 20 September 2014

Bailers & Keepers


It’s a loud process. There is incessant howling and shouts of “Why?".Meanwhile, a figure comes from the living room and taps on a door in the house.
“Vikram, Open the door. Come out.”
In the dark room, a man is in a corner, sitting with his legs folded. He is faintly murmuring- “Boys don’t cry, boys don’t cry”.
“I can’t come out. I won’t. You don’t need me. We came back from the pyre. Leave me alone.”
The figure abides and leaves the door.
A few minutes later, a girl approaches the door.
“Vicky, its Avantika.”
“The door is open.”
She enters the room and sits next to him after being able to see him with great difficulty. She is quiet and he does nothing to acknowledge her presence.
A few minutes later, he starts speaking-
“She was healthy. She was…. fine. But suddenly she falls sick. And then she is gone.”
He takes a deep breath.
“But boys don’t cry”. A faint laughter ensues.
She places a hand on his shoulder with a morose look as he looks over his shoulders to her.
“I slipped you know. I slipped. After a year of being strong and no contact, I slipped. I texted her.”
Avantika gives him a look of dismay and disapproval.
“Vicky!!”
“Well what was I supposed to do, huh? Look ,you guys are great and always there, but you don’t know me like she did. At least that’s what I thought. “
Avantika gives a puzzled look. “What did you do?”
“I texted her saying my mother is dead.”
He covers his face with his hands and takes a long breathe again. “You know what she replied? I am sorry for your loss. That. Yeah. No call or a rush to the house. But a text. I haven’t received such texts even from acquaintances.You know who talks like that? A stranger.”
“Do you know how it feels to be completely naked with someone?”His voice breaks. “To be so weak and vulnerable in front of them and still get the assurance that you are safe. You tell them your fears, hopes, problems, secrets and secrets of secrets. They do the same or atleast they tell you they are doing the same. You feel strong to beat the odds- the odds that yours is just another naïve and clichéd fairytale in a world which does not believe in one.”
“Trust flows from you without any choice. And then that thin glass of blind trust breaks. Did you ever prepare for that? Of course not. I know I was no angel or anything. And it has been a year. The world has moved on. There were millions of breakups after mine. But these people, who gather in the name of love, how do they move on when it was so real? Do they not feel more than anger and pain over a broken heart? What about responsibility? A person spilled himself out to you. What about honouring his trust? Don’t love him. But be there because only you know a few things. Maybe you know everything. Like how worried he is about life after he loses his parents. Like how he confided in you that he did not feel weak anymore because he knew you would be there as his rock. Love is not everything. There is kindness too. The two of them don’t have to be the same all the time. You can be kind and not love and you can love but not be kind. There was no bad blood. I did not hit her. We did not cheat. We ended because it didn’t work anymore. That does not mean I wanted to lose my Safe. My safe of everything. I just… was I blind? Huh? Tell me.”

“Well” Avantika sighs. “You sure know how to pick them. We need to get you into a course which helps you understand the nature of people. I am not sure who teaches that. And where. But you my friend need help. Because you suck at picking people.”
They both burst into laughter.
“Avantika?”
“Yeah?”
“My Mother is dead.”Tears and loud sobs ooze out of Vikram as Avantika hugs him. He cries viciously and murmurs continuously.
But Boys Don’t Cry.

Meanwhile, in a city far from them,
 “I am telling you man, you should have listened to me".
Arya was shouting at the top of voice on the phone. He suddenly gets another call on his phone.
“Wait Rishi I am going to have to call you back.”
“Hello?”
“Hello Arya. This is Zoey’s mother .I need to talk to you. Zoey has cancer. She has been in the City hospital for the past three months. You should come meet her, right now if possible.”
Arya responded with silence. Only few things kept encircling his mind-“Nope. I did not just hear it. It is not true.”
“Okay.” He hangs up.
Arya arrives at the hospital at 10 in the night. He sees a pensive woman sitting at the waiting area.
“Aunty.”
“She...she is fine now. They surgically removed the cancer but her chemo will continue for a while. She has been saying your name since the past one month. She would come back from her therapy and in her trance; she would repeatedly say your name. I thought you should meet her, she will never admit it, but she wants you by her side.”
Arya nods his head as he is unable to process the words he just heard and believe them even less.
However, when he walked into a room directed by Zoey’s mother, he had no choice but to believe it.
There laid Zoey and it would be so easy to not recognise her. Her hair, which she had always been proud of and cared for was gone. She looked pale. Arya had seen her in great pain before, but never this. Even with her eyes closed, he understood that she was going through something unfamiliar and it had taken a huge toll on her.
He sat next to her.”I will stay. If you guys need to go, you can go.”
“We will be outside . Call us if she needs anything” said her father.
Arya was dazed and confused. Zoey.  His Zoey for almost 4 years. They had parted ways eight months back. Neither of them knew the intricacies or the broad details of either person’s life thereafter. There was seething bitterness and anger in the end.
But that was the last thing on his mind. In fact, there was nothing on his mind. It was blank. He just wanted to do one thing-to look at her.
Zoey opened her eyes and on seeing Arya, closed them again.
“Hiya Stranger.”
“Hiya Back.” Zoey replied while rubbing her eyes.
“Who? What…..My mother.”
Arya nodded his head.
“Oh my ….. Please hand me my scarf over there….I...”
“I actually dig your new hairstyle.”
Zoey gives him an all too familiar look. It was the “I-do-not-believe- you” look.
She insisted on the scarf and as always, got what she wanted.
“So, I look hideous now. You must be thrilled that you broke up with me before such monstrosity took over me. Probably u must have wished it on me.”
Arya gave a smirk.”Classic. Firstly, we broke up because of you. I just said what was already pretty evident. Secondly, I did not wish awful things on you, sometimes in anger maybe, but never anything like this. I also do not think you look hideous.”
“Oh, so you have wished bad things for me.?”
“Seriously, THAT’s what you get out of it? You never change Zoey do you? That is why you make it so hard to keep on loving you.”
Suddenly, silence enveloped the once loud room.
“Glad to know the love is gone from both sides.”
“I am pretty sure it went away first from your heart.”
“Arya” Zoey cried in a low voice.”Why are you being so cruel? I am in no condition to fight. I am really sorry I broke your heart...”
“No honey, you broke my heart many times. When you would do things just to hurt me, when you would repeatedly try to break us up by telling me to walk away or always saying that we will never work and impulsively doing something just to defy me. No, you broke my “fickle minded heart” many times. But with your last act, you burned it. You burned my heart and then seasoned it with a salt of defiance. And you were even about to eat it. But that is when my balls hit my brain and told me that I had suffered enough.”
“Arya I told you I am sorry for what I did...”
“Please do not revisit it. I have to relive it every day, the lying and the betrayal. I am not here right now to talk about all of this. I am not even sure why I am here. When your mother called me, I even hesitated. But I knew that I would not sleep until I saw you tonight. We promised each other many things in love. But just because we broke up, does not mean you don’t tell your former best friend that you have cancer.”
“I am angry about that. Yes we ended. Yes it was not as pretty as we hoped. But 3 months and not even once u tell me “Hey I am battling for my life”. He sighed.
“I did not think you would be interested. I remember you looked at me as if you wished me dead.”
Arya was amazed. But he still understood where Zoey was coming from. He held her hand and asked her,”Forget about all of this. How are you? Tell me everything.”
They talked. Those endless talks. Just like before. When topics were few, useful even less but neither of them wanted to leave or to hang up. It seemed that life could end but not these talks.
It was 1 am when Zoey’s mother entered the room and told Arya that he should go home and rest. Arya reluctantly left, promising to come the next day.
At 12 pm, Arya flings open the door of Zoey’s room. Zoey and her parents are startled.
“Hey! I got you your favourite soup. Already checked with your doctor, you can have it.”
“Arya… you shaved your head.”
“Yeah. How does it look?”
“You did it for me so that I do not feel weird. God! When will you be mature? You are a Guy! You do not understand how a girl feels when she has a shaved head!”
This was the cue for her parents to leave.
“Ok. First things first I did it so that you understand that it is not a big deal. It will grow back. Secondly, stop with your “oh you are a guy, you won’t understand” jibe. Yes I have male genital organs. Sorry. I was born with them. If I had them replaced when we were dating… well can you imagine that? That must bum you out more than me not understanding. Unless you were cool with being a lesbian, in which case I would’ve loved you even more.”
Zoey laughed loudly till her eyes were wet. She had not laughed in months. He wasn’t that funny and yet, the laughter wasn’t forced.
Arya poured the soup and gave it to her.
 “Arya, What are we?”
“Sweetheart, do we give a rat’s furry ass about what we are? The people will want to know. But have I ever cared about the people? No right?”
Zoey nods.
“Then shut the hell up and eat your damn soup!”
Zoey smiles and eats.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

The Writer Who Loved Me


   20th June,2020.
                         It is finally done. It doesn't seem weird at all. Your body doesn't undergo any change except the daily food abuse ,the hours of cosmetic transformations ,exhaustion from the long ceremonies and even more so from the dancing. I guess I did kick it up a notch with my moves at the reception. He didn't seem too pleased though. The ceremonies and the long bouts of hunger can make anyone weary I guess.
                          I was pleased though that there were no tears shed by me at the ceremony. It felt good to be reassuring to my parents that I am still here. A sudden panic was about to set in inside the car but thankfully he held my hand and I was able stop the surge of emotions from riding down my cheeks. He showed me a note he wrote for himself in the morning.
" Yes. It's scary. But it's ok. It's her. Don't screw this up.You are ready."

He described it as a pep-talk. I found it childish and sweet.  But ever since I read those words, something has plagued my mind which forces me to be writing it all out on a page at the hotel on the first morning as a married woman. Someone else dominated my thoughts instead of my husband, when for all practical purposes, I should be utterly and hopelessly happy about this new chapter. Let's call him "The Writer".
                          Socially awkward. Brilliant when he opens his mouth. Slightly arrogant and aloof. These were just some of the things you could conclude by observing him over three months. And observation was all you could do since he would rarely talk. There was nothing remarkable about his physical looks or body language except the obvious- he was going to be a bald youth. I did make attempts at befriending or striking a conversation with the nerd in my usual friendly manner. Conversations had to be dragged out of him and you could easily deduce that he didn't trust anyone. And one day serendipitously, he decides to trust me.
                           The socially awkward turned out to be an emotional and vulnerable person ,suddenly divulging his deepest secrets to me. And then even you are comfortable sharing them back. The mistakes, the likes, the dislikes, the stories of the past and, the memories which still refuse to leave you. There is an air of informality and comfort which you get when for once there is someone listening to your monologues and strangely, you are equally curious to listen back to what they want to say. Suddenly, in this whole "someone to talk to", love pops its ugly head.
                           When things are going good and brisk in your bachelorette life of no consequences, your friend comes upto you and tells you that he likes you. My reaction? Flattered at first. It even makes sense since the poor loser had no one to talk to. I dismissed it as some temporary crush which will just wane away in a matter of time. But then slowly the feelings started to become more tangible.
                          When a normal guy falls in love with you, it is pretty cliched. He will text and flirt with you all the time and repeatedly ask you out. But when a writer falls (or claims to fall) for you, he will make things extremely weird. There will be poems and letters written which will never be understood at first glance. He will send you quotes and movie references as if they will make you fall for him. He in particular, had a severe problem with reality. He lived in the land of dreams, hopes and expectations. Now there is nothing wrong with dreaming, but you can't just live on it. And you have no right to bring someone down with your hopes and expectations. There would be the incessant cynical rants and complaints followed by intense claims and promises. I was busy taking them at face value and never allowed myself to delve deep in thinking about them. I kept telling him that I was at a point in my life where I didn't want anyone in my life. Besides, we had nothing in common and there were quite a few signs that he would make a possessive partner. I kept saying that I didn't want to hurt and lose him so I was trying to be distant to protect him. But perhaps it was me I was distancing myself from, to nip any remotely affectionate feelings in the bud and stop myself from losing the control I had fought so hard to gain after the breakup. He didn't stop.
                            There would be reminders and the ensuing fights. After a brief period of time, he seemed to finally get the point. He wanted to settle for being my best friend as a consolation prize. I agreed without giving much thought. "Few months then I never see him again, no harm in leading on". Something in me would be repelled by him and at the same time when he would write something for me, I could not help but be amazed. I would keep reiterating it to him-"It won't work. We are different people.I know it". He would retort saying that I wasn't Nostradamus and could not accurately predict the future. In hindsight, he was right. The years following my departure from the city were beyond and under my wildest expectations. My tastes, beliefs and views changed or I ensured I changed them to attract someone or some things in life. I fell for people I would never have even been associated with and every time they would break my heart, I would remember the one who loved me and whom I didn't say yes for even a single date.
                             The last few weeks are a bit hard to remember. I was so sick and tired by the end that I just continued on as a matter of civility. He was able to construe that his friend was tired of him. He came over to say goodbye before I left for my post-graduation. He handed me a couple of pages saying it was a story he had written with me in mind. I concealed my disgust at that being his idea for a gift, with every ounce of acting talent I could muster. He gave me a tight hug saying he had always thought we would be friends for a long time because there was no one he could be this open with. But he knew I had no such intention or resolve and that he would be replaced by someone else tomorrow.
                            He said two more words before he left, almost broken. What was it?....I remember being puzzled by it for days. These writers love their puns and metaphors and torture us in unravelling their mysteries. I haven't heard from him in six years. The grapevine tells me that he is doing fine with some business of his own. The writing seems to have worked, but in a very small way. He has been dating someone for a couple of years. She must be having her own personally crafted Bible by now I predict, filled with inscrutable poems,letters, confessions and love from him. 

                          I made the right choice. An overtly emotional fool with no definite source of income and lack of traditional life goals (get a job, build a career ) is not someone you can place your heart with. There was also no guarantee we would have even lasted, was there?
                          Now is not the time for me to atone the past or second guess. I have a smart and well-settled man who loves me and I love him. " What If"!! That is what he told me with tears in his eyes. His last words were "What If". Will I ask myself "What If"? Or he was talking to himself? I guess we will never know.

                          I still have his story though. I do read it occasionally. Did he get me even when I didn't get myself? Best to not go there. Writers can write anything they want, anytime. That is their talent. Doesn't mean they mean everything. Atleast that's what I will tell myself. I am sure he is happy without me and I am definitely happy. There was no dying need, romantic drama or destiny here. We both made it.
                                                             But......What If?