Wednesday, 25 March 2015

To You~From The Girl Who Didn't Look Away

(Back-Story: This is the second To You letter to make its way outside India. This request came from a 23 year old girl currently living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Over more than 10 email exchanges and I still struggled to understand how she's sustained and lived with a love for five years, having met her partner only three times. It made me wonder about the ease with which we slip in and out of love and dating, here where we so easily can.
I think about the countless couples out on dates staring into their smartphones, completely unaware if the colour of the sky matches their lover's trousers.)

To You,
My North Star

Sometimes remembering takes you back to beginnings. Sometimes it takes both your arms by their wrists and spins you around in circles so fast that you're dizzy, giddy and on the ground laughing and then crying.

I first started re-living our story when I began emailing a stranger in New Delhi, asking if she could write to you on our 5th anniversary this month. I considered doing it myself but I didn’t know where to start. So I let remembering and her questions lead the way.

An email questionnaire was promptly filled out, spelling out neatly in Helvetica facts and truths of our time together. It was only when she replied incredulously, asking me more questions, that I realized how very few around the world crash into love, in the slightly odd manner, that we did. 

I paused before I told her that we had only met thrice in these last five years. 
The first time I was wearing a complete niqaab and all my fears, exhilaration, doubt and manically beating heart in the soft crevices of my mouth. I can paint that day into nature like detail and describe in hundreds of haikus, the ink-dipped blue sky outside which matched conspiratorially the colour of the blue jeans and black kurta that you wore. 
Do people who meet multiple times a week, drink in as if parched, every seam of what their lover wears?

Her email reply took a while coming this time. Was she trying to remember maybe, what she wore the first time she met someone special? 

I ignored her next question and wrote back instead, to tell her about that one time you dreamt of me in a black abaya with splashes of maroon on its edges.
I bought one identical to your description the following week and wore it the next two times we managed to see each other. Times when I couldn’t say a single word to you, but you let me win at air hockey anyway. Times when I first noticed the dark mole on your chin and lush, thick, black eyelashes which were hooded curtains to a gaze I can still feel upon my skin. 

Memories are strange devices. I’ve seen you three times but your face, how you walk, your light, sparse beard is branded somewhere on the inside of my forehead. All I need to do is close my eyes.

That’s what I did, my love, closed my eyes and saw you again and again.

I think she had trouble moving beyond the wonder of how little we had actually met. She wanted to know if it was tough not dating how most other people in the world do. This time my reply was instant. 

I’m not sure how people in the rest of the world do it. Yes, they’re lucky they get to watch movies and experience daily life with people they love without being married to them, but not having any of it made me realise how little I needed those things. 

Yes, love can be constructed around dates and seeing each other, around living together and being married but it can equally and as strongly be constructed around a voice, a sigh and a constant presence. Around picking up and reading books together, in different places but at the same time. 
It can be built around growing up together but mostly it can be planted inside faith. Isn't that what love is and has been through time – an extension of faith? Faith in a feeling. Faith in your heart. And faith in someone, who a few years ago was a stranger. If seeing and hanging out with the person you loved, was the only marker of its presence then Sufi saints would never be able to dance in such geometric, careless abandon for a God they never met over coffee.

And that made me think of faith. How it can be cement-strong and turn wafer thin within moments. How sometimes longing can smear your day with a metallic aftertaste that nothing gets rid of easily. I think back then, to the days when you were studying in England, surrounded by girls you could meet easily, everyday. That in an upside down turn of events, it was around that time when my faith in you was unshakeable. How now that we're in the same city, minutes away, almost nothing or a turn of a mood can make me question so much.

I’m anchored in you, my love, the way people are anchored in dreams, addictions, careers and endless chases. You make me safe in a world full of bombings and senselessness. Of the three times we met, I remember the time it was your birthday, “Just keep looking at me, everything is fine.” you told me.

Till today I’m not sure if it would have been fine had I looked away. Would people have noticed? Would I have broken the trust of my family? Would that have caused the collapse of everything? Even armies couldn’t have wrenched my gaze away from your face that day. 
We saw each other for 182 seconds. That was the first instance I hated time. The second was when we didn’t speak for four months. It's when I learnt that sometimes you can miss someone so sharply it can cut your skin into such intricate patterns that you might as well be mounted on a wall and live out your life as a beautiful carpet.

Why did I want to write this letter, my email stranger asked me. 

To tell you how much I love you, to tell you how long, how hard and how endlessly I’ve waited. To tell you that Time isn't a loyal pet. You could feed it everyday with hopes, dreams, grand plans and schemes. Take it for regular walks to keep it fit and around a schedule. Until one day, from under your feet Time will fitfully change and mutate into an untameable beast and that day all your hopes, dreams and wild plans will seem nothing more than wishful thinking. On days like that, seconds of Time will stretch on like the summer afternoon sun across the sandy desert and all you can do is look up, breathe, wait and believe. 
I want this letter to tell you how much I’ve believed in you, in your work when times were tough, in the velvet calm of your voice which has soothed and caressed my worried, panicked forehead because your hands can't just yet. How much I believe in us even when the days are sums of endless aches. And to tell you that if there is magic in the world.

It is in this. 

It is in this.

The girl who didn’t look away

(To You is a letter writing project I started because there are not enough letters and love going around. If you have something to say with love-- for your ex girlfriend, you current husband, pizza (promise not to make it cheesy), your landlord who let you skip rent or even Ryan Gosling-- I'll write that letter for you.
The final letter will be up on my blog and a copy will be handwritten/typed on a typewriter and posted to you or to an intended recipient. Kisses on the envelope only on my discretion.
Give me a shout at: )

           (Picture Credit: From my friend and ace photographer @kloseframe on 
This is a writer themed bar, appropriately called Dull Boy as most of these writers turn out to be)

Thursday, 12 March 2015

To You~ My Vintage Man

(Back-Story: A reader of my blog, a mother of two living in Dehradun, wrote to me asking me to write a letter to tell her husband of 17 years how much she misses just talking to him. Writing this made me wonder how often we forget that feeling knows no age.
How our youth obsessed culture blindsides the everyday love of couples who navigate families and the passing of time on each others faces. It made me think of my own parents, my mum who once must have been  a dreamy-eyed 22 year old and my dad who might have been an unsure 25 year old, many many years ago. It made my heart skip a beat).

To You,
My Vintage Man

I think somewhere around the first half of  2001, 18 year olds across the world laid an absolute and complete stake on love. Every song, article and movie seemed to be stitched together for them. I want to blame this either on Mark Zuckerberg or global warming- but my arguments for both are still under construction.

Maybe I understand and remember less sharply how urgent and immediate young love can be.
How time can be warped and stretched like old gum, where days splatter into each other and nights stretch on endlessly awake. How your world can come crashing down one unanswered phone call at a time, when you softly learn that love isn't anything like you expected.
That's when I want to round up all these young lonely hearts and whisper-
"Yes, my darlings love is never going to be like you imagined. On some days it will resemble far too sharply, a stubborn, talented child- one that will go out of its way to be the very opposite of every belief you've held close to your manically beating heart. 
But that's the point of it, my babies, that's the point."

And then when I have their attention I will tell them our love story. Yours and mine. Born without status updates but as as real, as fractured and as filled with hope as the best love stories tend to be. 

A love that has been lived these past 17 years less like a grand, dramatic musical and more like an awkward walrus invited to a formal ballroom party. 
It's quiet, it sometimes doesn't fit the room and it forgot to put a bow-tie on but you can't  deny its presence. The walrus has always been there chewing its dinner and taking up two chairs instead of one.

I want to tell the 18 year olds that more than unreturned texts, sometimes love is stretched to its limits when you're faced with the possibility of loss and the sterilized stench of emptiness trapped inside hospital rooms. When a surgery turns traumatic and you're lying in bed, unsure if you're ever going to wake up. When your otherwise uncommunicative husband insists on relentlessly reiterating to the disbelieving doctors that something with his wife is seriously wrong. That his sheer presence and will is what helps you not slip into a coma.

Love my darlings, I'll whisper, is living together, sharing a room and a life and still struggling to talk. Trying to form the right words but knitting scarves of silences around each others necks instead. 
Trying to find a way to urgently tell him that his roughened, callous-speckled hands when placed on my shoulder still make my heart skip a beat. That he doesn't place his hands on my shoulder the same way anymore. 
That did he know that of all our organs, our hearts age the slowest? Despite what we put them through?
That even an argument today about extended family can leave me as shattered and short of breath as a lonely New Years Eve night can make you kids feel. 
That I never got to share how I felt and sometimes I have felt too much, too long and for so many years that the language I know is not enough.

That loving a man who isn't afraid to admit he's sorry is the easiest thing ever. 
That the same man who apologises so easily never actually wants to discuss what went wrong. That all my researcher instincts come screaming back and I revisit the days of my PhD and want to explain to him in painful detail why it's important that we talk. That it is how I've always unscrambled life and geology- by approaching a problem from every angle and reference point, till the problem itself is transformed.
That there's more hysteria and breakdown in his rigidity and structure than there is in chaos and free-falling.

'A Comparative Study Delineating The Importance of Just Talking'

The research title for the paper is already imprinted in my head.

How did we get here, you kids must be wondering and do we have an emoticon to fix it? 
Darlings, it started at 18. Once I was 18 too. 
A lithe, bronzed, beautiful girl who in every dance whirled with more purpose than empty movement. Her aquiline nose held up with pride because she recognised herself before lesser assured adults did.
Do you remember this now, my vintage man?
A girl you married and loved enough to travel across cities for, each time a birthday, anniversary or lonely Tuesday would come around. A girl and boy who got married and replicated themselves into two beautiful 14 year old twins. 

That despite the children and the history, sometimes the present feels tattooed and pierced with yearning and longing- to go back in time, to have you look at me and talk to me like when we were as shiny and hopeful as our ideals. To remember a 21 year old boy and an 18 year old girl before we became smudged with definitions of husband, wife, mother, daughter-in-law, niece and caretaker.

To talk again. To drill a hole through the undulating mountain-range of unsaid things which now lie between us. To know that it's not too late, to turn time around.  
It's March after all and the beginning of summer- that time of the year when old hearts hope the hardest.


(To You is a letter writing project I started because there are not enough letters and love going around. If you have something to say with love-- for your ex girlfriend, you current husband, pizza (promise not to make it cheesy), your landlord who let you skip rent or even Ryan Gosling-- I'll write that letter for you.
The final letter will be up on my blog and a copy will be handwritten/typed on a typewriter and posted to you or to an intended recipient. Kisses on the envelope only on my discretion.
Give me a shout at: )

 (Pictured here: Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart married from 1945 to Bogarts death in 1957. The story goes that when Bogart passed away at just 57 he was buried with a small, gold whistle that had been a part of a charm necklace he gave "Baby" (Lauren), It was inscribed from a quote from the very first movie they worked in together. It read: If you want something, just whistle.
Bacall died last year at 89.)

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Lessons #6868

(Instagram uploads from @hyperbolemuch)

All the people you've 
Ever loved
And ever touched.
Turned into those stars above.
Those you lost along the way,
Those who stopped 
But did not stay.
The ones who tried
To live in and conquer you.
The ones who were
Just trespassing through.

Some you carry like 
Beating aches inside.
Some whose secrets 
You bury deep and hide.
Some still living 
In strange countries.
Others buried and burnt
Into familiar sleep.

The freckled sky
Is stitched together
Clumsily, only for you,
Night after night.
Always both gloomy
and way too bright.

It wants you to 
Look straight up at 
the shimmering carbons. 
They're burning and shining 
A story the 
Ancients left behind:
"We're all here
We're all still here". 

(Subject inside this stunning picture, my friend @supriyasodhi . Picture Credit @abhishekgaurav. Gulmarg, 2015)

Earthing is what protects structures from lightning strikes. And there I was mid-air, pouring my body of flesh, memories and exposed nerves recklessly into you. Without a thought on how the current would split me into two ~hyperbolemuch . 

(Picture credit my fav Instagram feed @ballerinaproject_ with the stunning @julietdoherty)