Shall I compare thee?

My mind is made up.

I will not sway.

You I have chosen,

With you I will stay.

 

There is a bell curve to every relationship.

Initially it’s a contest. There are choices available to at least one of the two people. So initially, you are fighting. Trying to be the best. Trying to be first. Trying to be the best-loved. And then you are. Right until you reach the top of that bell and the slide begins. It could take a month, a year, it could take seven years for the itch to develop, but somewhere, somehow, you will  realise that you’re fighting again. And ironically, it’s for the same place that you thought you had won.

You might be a wife, a mother, a girlfriend, or even the love of his life. But then, at some point of time, you will just be the woman who doesn’t satisfy him anymore. Or even worse, you will never be the woman who used to satisfy him.

This is why we hate comparisons. From childhood up, when we were compared to sundry cousins. To school, when we were compared to the rankers, the performers. To college, being compared to the popular girls. To love, when we were compared to ghosts or mirages.

Comparisons imply the presence of a second. And we all wish we were unique.

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Rose wine and Chocolate Cake.

I came here as a nobody. I’m still a nobody.

I had promised myself, I would never do this. I would not be one of the countless number of authors who write about the ‘maximum city’.

I will not write about a damned city.

But I have already broken this rule once (see appendix, if I’m not too drunk to add it), and now, that I am independent, and alone and so very ‘happy’, the one entity I would want to share this euphoria is her. This city.

I was thinking about her, this evening, driving next to marine drive (I can see you now, rolling your eyes, going ‘marine drive’). But I was thinking about her, and how, even after my friends have left, and I have no family here, and every Friday is some sort of liquor and myself, that still, Mumbai keeps me in her thrall. There is a distinct physical reaction when  my boss talks about giving me Gujarat as a region, or when I think about Kolkata as the city where I will eventually live, and my first thought is ‘it’s not Bombay’.

For me this has been a city of magnification. I came as a girl. And I was magnified into a woman. I lost my virginity here, and I lost my heart for the first time here.  I saw the sea and I lost my heart all over again. I turned into someone who is supposed to be capable, and I was the girl standing on its roads at two at night trying to recover a lost relationship. And all this city did was to magnify my each and every emotion. Walking on its roads, I felt too capable. Alone in a two bedroom house at night, I felt too vulnerable. And when I looked at the men I loved, I felt too inadequate.

That is maybe the problem with this city. There is no rationalization. Traffic jams are not stuck for a normal duration of time, loves don’t a lifetime, and well, emotions turn around so fast, they become magnified into super emotions. Those great moments when you look back and feel a surge so strong, you wonder if it’s maybe just you. It’s not. It’s this city.

It’s this damned city. It magnifies emotions, until they look like distorted pictures of themselves, like when you stare at an image from too close. The colours merge, and you think that it’s abstract. But it’s not. There is a picture. You just need to be see it.

Appendix 1 :

Back to Bombay.

I walk down an insanely crowded road. I have sweat running down my back and there is a slight breeze trying to mitigate the effects of an entire city’s effusions.

I haggle over a hundred grams of some vegetable, and eat half a guava on the way. I shoulder away random men who can’t help walking too close. I see dried fish being sold in packets, and cry myself hoarse in trying to get a cab to stop. I shrug, and just keep on walking.

I walk down one flyover and go up another. I have a rhythm in my walk now, and the steps have stopped being a burden. I buy some water, and drink it, with some children already begging for the non-empty bottle. I see people fighting and I do not stop to find out why. I fight for my space on the narrow corridor and keep my purse firmly in hand. I make sure that I have a place here. I feel a moment of absolute elation. Then I shrug, and walk on.

Inviolability.

If every day was a new day, we would be happy creatures indeed.

There would be no need to sleep at night with a mental checklist of things to be done tomorrow. No need to wake up with a pounding heart for things forgotten, reliving yesterday’s inefficiencies. There would be lightness in the heart, a spring in the step, because all your sins are forgotten and hey presto ! it’s a new day.

And best of all, yesterday’s love would be gone, and you would have a clear conscience and a free heart. You would look at someone, anyone, and keep reliving the giddy feeling of falling in love.

And there would be no marriages.

I look around me and think, maybe that won’t be such a bad idea.

Yesterday I saw two people, bound together for life, who looked like they could wish for no better fate. And the day before I saw two people bound together for one life, and leading two instead.

There is a deep disgust in my mind for an institution which seeks to create a captive out of me. But when I see the happiness of two people who want that and nothing more, I sit back and think. I think about my loves, and the feelings they evoked. And the feelings they evoke now. There is a museum of lost loves, and it seems a mockery of love to try and create something on their ruins.

How would anything built on such a foundation survive? With cracks already there and a little glue and some plaster holding it all together. With lives lived in constant metamorphosis, trying to turn into someone who is happy.

There was sanctity to marriage in my mind. Until I grew up and saw the world.

There is nothing worse than seeing an institution crumble around you. It makes you doubt your own place in the world and the future you had chalked out for yourself. It makes you look at everyone in a different light.

And it makes you lose your trust in the goodness of life.

This is what disillusionment does to you. It makes you want a new day.

Affairs of the heart.

She got out of the car, and as usual I waited for her to turn back and wave goodbye.

And even after ten years, I still felt the same pang of an instinctive loneliness, as I saw her walk away.

There was a wonderful intimacy we shared. I was fortunate to have her. Most people do not get to have a soulmate, and even though I thought the whole concept was ridiculous, I knew that life without her would not really be the same. There was a depth to us. And as a man, I would be ridiculed for liking the conversation in the relationship, but well, I was past the time when only the mechanical part of it appealed to me.

So, she walked away, and before that, she did turn back.

That moment of pure joy for me. Her need for me, as clearly reflected as mine for her.

And now that the relevant part of my day was over, I drove back home. The wife was waiting.

One for the road.

Friday, 11 February 2011 at 22:45

Marriage.

For always. The same person. For always.

Look at time in a non-linear fashion. Expand it to fill in the moments that seem like eternity, to fit the years that seem to fly by in a whirl.

See it turning it into a huge, clean white space, extending all around you, as far as the eye can see. Now imagine having only one person in it. As the centre of that vast infinity. As the only recognizable point in a plane. And now start walking with him/her to find the end.

I’m very sure the conversation will pall after about a few miles. There’ll be a few pauses first, here and there, barely noticeable. While you are trying to think of something new to say. Sure, there are wayside trees and animals and far off objects to discuss, but for how long? Then there will be irritating repetitions, because you will have the same subjects and the same stories, and you will be thinking – not this again. Then there won’t be even that. There might be even worse. There will be only you counting your silent steps, disjointed from your body, you and your mind in a far off parallel universe.

And then it will be your memories. When the person next to you will change, for a while, become a ghost, gliding past and helping you remember. That is why people panic. Right before they start to walk. They know how it will end. Hopeless hope is the most human of all emotions.

But, we will not be like the millions of others. Against all commonsensical notions of probability, we will defy the odds, and have a marriage to live for. After a while, this mantra stops working.

Then, and maybe before it all starts, you need a parenthesis.

One for the road. It would be damned depressing otherwise

I stand in pieces of me

I stand in pieces of me.

Beyond schemes and analysis,

I create this beautiful symmetry.

I step into a merry freefall.

Making a crystal rack for me to lie on.

Digging my grave with a porcelain shovel,

wrapping me in eiderdown.

Pouring this spoonful of love down my parched throat.

Tunneling into me and creating a black hole.

Kilns of hotness from ur molten bones.

Dried with a vengeance, made a plaster whore.

Pouring a spoonful of love down my parched throat.

Seeing me crack and melt around my toes.

Satisfy/Satiate

Sunday, 23 May 2010 at 21:34

Greed seems to be one of the worst ways you can expose yourself in front of others. There is a set parameter for how much of yourself can be let out and how much has to be carefully camouflaged to meet society’s requirements. There was a time when excess was considered the mark of the haves.
Life was supposed to be lived on a larger-than-life scale, with peacocks and elephants and plates of gold, and a hundred dancing houris, all at the clap of one’s hands. Then we moved away from decadence and subtlety made a bigger statement. And now, society frowns at ‘too much’.

What I fail to understand is that how is burning need to be throttled and kept in check when all you want to do is to have a surfeit of everything. That is as true of people as it of great nations, as true of a king as it is of a beggar. More so, in fact of the needy than the ones who already have. Ever striving, ever wanting, ever clamouring.
Like a never fed Oliver Twist, it is always ‘Please Sir, can I have some more.’

I’m intrigued by the words that come to my mind when I think of wanting something- rapacious, clawing, desiring, satiating, gluttonous..but not satisfied.
Never just satisfied.
It will be sad. That day, when I stop asking for more.

(This is not titled ‘Gluttony’, because that word is taken.)

Exchange.

Friday, 28 January 2011 at 13:41

There is an expression: “making love”. It is used to describe a lot of things. A part of a relationship. A part of who you are as a person. A part of the circle of life, perhaps. A part of the great gambles that men take when they give their hearts to fickle women. A part of the mysteries that women share when they welcome a stranger into their lives. A part of a lot of things.

But, never something in itself? Being just what it is. Without the bells and the whistles and the sundry embellishments. Of course, it is. Of a kind. But in return it asks a lot sometimes.

It could be your time (When you are leaving every other need to satiate this one), it could be a scary moment or two (When you are agonizing about what people think, or what they know, or worse, was the protection enough?) or it could be a fraction of your pride (Which you lose like a chipped off old cup. It won’t make you look much worse, but it definitely decreases usability).

Much like a commercial transaction but with a higher exchange value. And then, is that not one of the things which life demands of you? To be successful, you have to be good at commerce. So if you get this most primal of all exchanges right, you come out winning.

This logic has got to be faulty.