Wednesday, 8 March 2017

My first encounter with her was a rather short one- one she had written off as a customary, compulsory small talk with all of her clients. Although I had met her only once earlier, she seemed strikingly different on that day. She looked weary and tired and it felt to me as if a part of her happiness had been stripped off from her.

Quick to judge, I passed her off as one from the clan of angry aunties. I secretly disliked them and kept away from interactions with them wherever possible. But there was a lingering melancholy in the air, one I had familiarized myself with over the past six months of my life, ever since granny's demise. Such melancholy has always been ubiquitously lacerating.  Today, her silence intrigued me and left me wanting for answers.

Before I could start a full-fledged conversation, I tried to earn her trust. Unlike earlier, she seemed reticent. She had perhaps forgotten me and my story, but I remembered every detail of my conversation with her on our very first meeting.

It had been a rather uninteresting day, and in spite of being a complete stranger she had asked me to sit down next to her for a while on the sofa near the entrance, and talk. Simply converse. Her workplace was tiny, a studio flat converted into a beauty salon. The salon had been passed over to the new owner when the previous one decided to leave for India. The kitchen, located at the outer wall of the building, had already been replaced by two small partitioned areas. The central hall, which a client would enter into was the only breathable area in the room. It is beyond me how anyone could spend eleven, sometimes twelve hours of their day in such a claustrophobic setting. This was enough reason for my almost non-extant compassion to be brought alive.

I was being rather reclusive those days, but had no interesting things to do, and I gave in to her request and sat intently listening to her. As she spoke, her delicate voice diverted my attention from the rather irritating noise of the ticking clock. It was the first time that I heard a sound in the room that was not from inanimate objects.

It was mostly she had spoken and she had done it hurriedly, as if she had too much to say in absolutely no time. She spoke of her child who she had left back at home, of her hope to create a better future for them in this new city, about her husband who lived in the same city but stayed separately, about her small rented apartment in the outskirts and a room-mate who she occasionally mentioned. She didn't seem particularly happy or sad regarding her situation, but four months back, during her first month in the city she seemed more hopeful.

Today, it was my turn to break the ice.

"Aapne apna naam Kavya bataya tha na?" I asked her warmly.

She was taken aback. I was then convinced that she remembered nothing about me, nothing substantial at least. Why did I remember her name then? Frankly, I don't know why I did, but I always held even the shortest conversations very close to my heart.

After a while she responded with an intimacy I had never known with a stranger. She was looking for someone to share her distress with, and on that eventful day I was fortunate to be finally trusted with a story that both mended and broke my heart at the same time. 

She began her narration in Hindi infused with non-deliberate Gujarati. I found it difficult to use any known language to coax her. Her story wasn't tragic. But her hopelessness was. 

The mother of a two year old had decided to travel here looking for a job as a beautician. As fate had it, her encounter with  a fellow passenger in the airport resulted in a rendezvous with a lady who owned a salon here. A two-year work contract was signed between them immediately, and her life changed for the worse. Her employer treated her very harshly, providing her only a single bed-space for accommodation. Her pay was meager and she could hardly make ends meet. Adding to this, her desolation and loneliness made the situation insufferable for her.

Though her narration evoked pity, I was equally enraged. In a foreign land, each of us have our own struggles- some more materialistic than others. But these trials and tribulations in their varying degrees have often been more binding than divisive. Here, more often than not, the territorial boundaries that bind us back home are blurred. Blurred into a brotherliness born out of empathy, and its distant cousin optimism. 

I have often described myself as someone incapable of overly affectionate behavior. I have always hated small talk, probably owing to the fact that I was always terrible at it. But I thought I'd give her my number, so she could let me know if she needed a listener. She did not have a cell number, or wifi at her workplace, which made any communication difficult.

During another visit a few months later, I was informed that she had quit work or probably made to do so, and nothing much else was said. As natural as guilt is to me, I felt instant remorse about how I was a listener, but only a passive one. I was regretful that not a single conversation ensued the one in which she had shared her troubles to me. I want to believe I was just trying to keep her safe in my own way. I could probably have escalated her matter to people that could have done something about it, I was unsure whether things would align in her favor or against if I did so.

But to this day, a few years from then, I think everyday of the many ways in which people amidst us are silently suffering. I think of the conversations that we are constantly failing to have. The conversations that aren't deep enough, and sadly not warm enough. The many ways in which we fail to comprehend their aching hearts and minds, and the innumerous times our kindness has failed.

I hope all of this changes one day, and I hope you and I become great conversationalists, sometimes with the the mere purpose of holding a trembling hand back to light and life.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

My best friend had just come back from her workshop in Pune. It was a long week (or two) without her and as soon as she stepped back in town, we met at a local franchise of KFC. It was their homecoming of sorts. She was as overtly amicable and as obvious as it'd seen, had made good friends during that one week, and inevitably over time they would be my friends as well. 

Rupa was one of them.

I was standing in a longer than usual queue at the restaurant with our mutual friend, Sid, trying to get a good round-up of all the events that ensued in the past one week.  The group had too many stories to tell- the way it would paint the next three of years of my life with the best of memories. There were stories about late night music, about sneaking out into the terraces after perm time, about alcohol or lack of it, about a teacher that just loved Palla- none of it seeming too new to me.

What I noticed distinctly through our conversations though was that Rupa stood there, silently behind me in the line. His interactions were different, he took time to open up but after he was comfortable, he was unstoppable. This would remind me a little about myself. It was the first time that I had met him. And as weird as it seems to mention it, he had the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen in a guy and I had to let him know.  Around Rupa, there was an air of friendliness which made any conversation easy. He made his presence felt, even in the silence.

To this day, years after our friendship and a year after his passing, I have a very vivid memory of how Rupa's presence filled our lives with more and better of everything- more sunshine, more adventure, more joy, and eventually, unbearable amounts of sadness that would take too many tears and considerable time to heal.

After our first meeting, we would meet, quite often at dinners and lunches when the group was around. When the regularity of these reduced, we met at sleepovers which will always be one of my fondest memories of Manipal.

Rupa had a lot of love to give and receive, specially when slightly drunk. A drunk Rupa would open the door, welcome us in with the warmest of hugs with verbal affirmation of how much he loved us. His hugs were to die for, warmer with the most innocent of loves. To add to it, Rupa owned a smile that emitted intense goodness and warmth. Not once in my thoughts about him can I picture him without that achingly beautiful curve imprinted on his face.  

His face beamed when he spoke of his interests. His sports, specially cricket, his friends, and his love-interest who would later become the love of his life. 


(I am unsure whether I can ever finish this. Every time I come back to this, it gets awfully difficult. After all, there are some losses you can never get over.) 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Chandragiri, On your shore is where I'd rather be.

Among the many questions that confuse (and most often, infuriate) me, "Where are you from?" tops the list. Frankly, I have never known. And if I did have an acceptable answer to it, why would it matter to anyone where I really am from?

That being said, I am fortunate to live multiple lives in a single time, mostly owing to the places I come from. I was born in a small town in Kerala, Kasargod and my formative years were spent in Dubai. After my too-big-for-Dubai dreams and other circumstances forced my exit from a closely guarded, protective environment in Dubai, my world expanded so much more once I stepped into a newer home, Mangalore.

Mangalore is not the ideal place to live in, considering how communally sensitive it is (when it is). But still being in its developing stages it is a perfect amalgamation of  the traditional and the modern, which suits all lists of the introvert I am. Looking back, it seems to me that in spite of the love-hate relationship Mangalore and I had over the years, this city has finally won my heart- and the usual answer to where I'm from is Mangalore, if we don't delve into further details that is.

Thekkil, my ancestral village is only a two-hour drive from Mangalore. While my sibling passionately hated life in Thekkil, it being cut-off from most amenities,  I had an insatiable need for regular doses of village life tracing back to as far as I can remember. We never lived in Thekkil after we migrated to Dubai, me at the age of 5 and my sibling at 2 and half years. Only this August, we spent two whole nights at home, ensuing my granny's demise.

Disappointingly, I do not have much travel experience to compare Thekkil's beauty with other places in similar settings. But with some effrontery that I have cultivated over the years, I believe enough to call this place one of the most beautiful villages in Kerala. With a serene river abutting most independent houses, beautiful moonlit nights playing the highlight, towering palm trees all over and a caressing monsoon, I can hardly be proved wrong in this regard.

I can't vouch with statistical correctness, but Thekkil comprises mostly of a young adult population. Most of its middle-aged men are first generation Gulf-toilers, the result of which can be seen in the form of bungalows screaming out all kinds of grandiose. The bigger your bungalow, and the grander your child's wedding function, the more successful you are in life, it seems. This has always put me off.

But in general, the residents here are not overly sophisticated or pompous. As a child, I would often wake up in the mornings listening to the loud noises of domestic discussions in our kitchen that usually hosted them; who is marrying whom and when, who's child just went to the gulf for a new job, who is building a new house, what's for lunch at who's place- life in Thekkil was as transparent as it could have been. Things have changed a little through the years, or so it seems. Or probably it should be attributed to my  growing up, specially being a girl.

While the aforementioned bungalows have huge emphasis laid on the entrance arches and doors, there is rarely any communal activity that happens not involving the rear doors of houses, mostly where the areas that confine women are located. It seems to me now that most of these rear doors are more shut than open and welcoming. Sitting on the porch, at a safe distance from which the river proudly presents itself  as a stage to the moon's reflection, I'm told is a taboo for a 24-year old lady. Too many men and ill-intentional young lads tread those mud roads after all.  It has also been difficult to fake/hide my identity here. Everyone in Thekkil knows everyone from Thekkil.

These are however not major issues to someone whose wild-spirit is still untamed after strenuous effort by a traditionally, conforming, conservative family. You can hardly ever drag me away from the river banks and I sit even on boundary walls, reading books if that's what it takes. I also find the chai that the vendor across the street sells pretty good for the standards of the shop. I wonder how many other women have tasted the same.

The women in Thekkil have chosen a subservient role in their families and largely, in the society. Patriarchal by all means, a woman's role seems confined to their houses, raising the family. Power to them if that is what they wish. But growing up, I have heard of several instances of fathers not wanting to educate their girl children lest they grow up to defy the roles already assigned them. Most kids in Thekkil go to the government school at a short walking distance, where there is absolutely no emphasis laid on quality education, and this is an issue that worries me.

The better part of the story is that I now remain only a visitor to this village. The time I spend here mostly involves quenching my recurring need for its beauty and heeding to a natural affinity towards the little world it houses in itself, and its people. The bitter part is that, there is only a little portion of this beautiful village that leaves me even as I walk away from it.

As I sit in Dubai and write this, it has been only a little over a month since I last visited Thekkil. But Chandragiri, on your shore is where I'd rather still be.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

At 23.

There's a war in my head. And I'm not winning.

23? Passion. Aggression. A peace like never before. Far too much love, too much hatred. Wanting to carve a name, etch it on this earth forever. Needing to retreat into my shell.  An incomprehensible love for art. An urge for creation. Inability to focus. 

There's a war in my head. And I'm not winning. 

Friday, 10 April 2015

The one that matters.

I'm far far away in a distant land, and I don't see you anymore.  Not as much I would have desired to.  Not in all your colours and their shades,  not in your details.  But you're with me on my mind,  as you always will be.  A part of you will always live in me, like it does,  reminding me so constantly of our time together.
Tonight feels like one of those nights where I'd ask you to continue speaking, even when you had nothing to say,  only to listen to the vast dimensions of your thoughts.  One of those nights that I would choose to sing for you; you'd join in and I would reprimand you for the incorrectness of the lyrics. Or the night that we strolled along the moonlit shores listening to lethargic waves, letting them whisper their stories as we whispered ours. The night of endless adventures. The night that felt shorter than the conversations we wanted to share.
Tonight there's only gratitude. For being my shore that I lashed my troubled waters at,  the one where we built our castle of memories when nothing else seemed to remain. 
For choosing to walk into my life and being the closest definition of "altruistic love" that I will ever know. For doing everything within your reach,  and beyond to make me happy.
For calling me "sunshine",  even when I brought in more darkness than I should have.
For loving me even in my broken fractions and parts,  when I couldn't find the whole of me. For helping me find myself back,  not closing your doors on me everytime I walked away, for the kindness. 
For allowing me to love you.  For letting me know just how much I could.  For setting the standards high for any other person that will ever enter my life.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am for you.  And how apologetic I am to have caused the pain and the tears- something I can never forgive myself for.
Today is your day,  and if there's anything I want you to know it is that
I love you.
In all your colors and shades. In your most intricate details.  In the purest form of love I have ever felt.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Nights and Stories.

2AMs, the sound of the ticking clock, heavier breaths, and cold breezes forcing their way in through the crevices in the glass- they all have their own story to tell.  The nights hold an unworldly charm for those who can see through the dark. 

As it caresses in its bosom the noisy crowds, the poets, artists,  writers and thinkers awaken. How in love am I with these hours that belong solely to them!

Up high in the sky,  the moon shines bright and on it are silhouettes of moon children dancing in a winter light to faintly lullabies. They disappear to the morning sun. Are the craters the indentations of their tiny feet as they hurried back home?

On some starless nights,  the lone star appears meekly and carefully, like a little brat giving away the playful  crimes of its comrades when they're away. Little does it know, the  the fallen stardust on night sky carpets at 2 AMs are my playful crimes. 

On a distant land, I hear the warring waters.  The ebb and flow of the tides.  Their fickle mindedness.  Ebb or flow?  Why this war with a welcoming shore, I think.  Ebb, then flow. 

Where I am, the nights birth a new story with every deceptive wink of my eye.  There's another world in these nights.  A hundred new worlds in some.  How in love I am with these nights and their stories!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Slowly,  but steadily we are drifting apart into two distant universes.

Everything feels painfully new and I wish on the canvas of our togetherness, there were splashes of white, green or even an occasional yellow , not just a smothering red.

I wish it echoed in splendor foggy scenes of us by the creek, the taste of the vannila half moons we gulped to save our velvet twilights, the sea's soulful lullabies and the bees singing morning songs to the sleeping buds.

I promise to have settled for even shadows cast by an uninvited grey or black, had I known red to be the only tint to hold us together.

In my world,  red has always been the colour of the dying sun pleading the ocean to not let go. 
The tears of a dying moon waving the sun an adieu.
The colour of the a distant planet long separated from its elements, screaming out loud to me of an oblivion. 

The painful colour of your ruby eyes as we parted on that rainy night.