Wednesday, February 26, 2014

On having read 'The fault in our stars.'

I sensed choking in her voice when she called up. She wanted to have tea. I hadn’t learned if tea was a part of her fascination for things British. Whenever I heard the British accent or heard someone even mention it, in my head, her tiny-voiced squeaky war cry outburst would play like an automated response to the stimulus. I agreed to have tea straight away, because there was no point asking her what the matter was; she had repeated her question twice without giving as much as a breathing space for me to respond, and that spoke out aloud for the state her mind was in.

It was an unusually cold February evening. Her hands gripped my unwashed t-shirt for balance and warmth – no, not my waist, only my t-shirt. The ginger in the steaming hot tea burnt the throat soothingly. She was on her way of being zoned out.

Tears kept swelling in her eyes, and when they got threateningly close to drawing a path down her cheeks, her brows crossed, an effort that froze her entire face, as if gathering strength from it. Her fingers sprung to rush into a clenched fist and stopped midway to relax slowly, as though they were a part of a choreographed performance with her eyes that filled and emptied in a rhythmic pattern. Her gaze was fixed somewhere over the bare, unpainted walls of the terrace on the multi-storied building that someone was raising on the other side of the road for almost half a year now.

Just like her gaze, I was stuck. Writing was not hard for me. There was a point of time when it felt natural and easy. And with time, I had lost my familiarity with it. Surely, there should be some way to go about it and be done with it. How would she have done it? What would she notice in the glances she stole? She would have noticed how my shorts were rolled, stuck between touching my knee and desperately trying to slip past it with each movement of my leg. She would have noticed how my eyes engorged and my brows arched when I put my entire concentration into tearing open a mouth-freshener with my teeth. She would have noticed the crooked 9’s on the envelope I held and probably made a mental note that they looked like tadpoles.

Tadpoles! There. I hadn’t lost it all, after all, and she was unknowingly helping me find it in my head.

She turned slowly to face me, tears brimming, brows still crossed as though she was judging my silence and my observational skills, boring right into my shifty self. After exactly a second and a half, I shuffled and dug into my pockets, mentally noting that she would never understand why I always had to look at my notification-less phone so often when she kept throwing looks like that at me.

‘What is it about?’ I asked her.

She lifted the book she was clutching in her left hand and brought it to the eye-level, holding it with all her might, lest it slip away from her grasp, and probably the universe as well.

‘That girl died,’ I said, not entirely realizing that I had shaped it as a question in my head, but had ended up making a statement.

She remained silent, still using all her concentration to abstain from crying in front of me. From the times I knew her, her cold skin could certainly do with some warmth. She continued looking straight into me. Taking a deep breath, she gave me the book and then showed me a couple of bookmarks held together by a tear strip. She folded it along that line.

‘If this is the whole of my heart or something like that,’ she said, and pointed to one side, ‘this is the bigger piece, and I want you to have it.’



I took it and examined it to see ‘Okay?’ printed on it in an artistic little cloud. She held the other piece in her hand. It said ‘Okay.’


That February was unusually cold. I wondered if he understood the depth of what I had just said, what I had just done. And like every other time, what mattered was not if he did, but that I did. I stretched my hands open, diffidently.

‘Shah Rukh Khan?’ he asked.

‘Shah Rukh Khan?’

‘I thought you were doing the Shah Rukh Khan pose,’ he said.

I grimaced.

He chuckled softly and pulled me into his chest, letting me bury my face on the comfortable spot along the side of his neck. And through him radiated the central heating system that my body had the luxury of being spoiled by.

‘Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. (…) There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbound set. I want more number than I am likely to get. (…) But, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn't trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I'm grateful.'

Friday, February 14, 2014


Pictures of her standing in the middle of my room, hands on her hips, continue to drain the empty spaces of my dreams. Knowing as she always does, better than I, where I’d left my keys, my wallet, my spectacles, the mosquito bat. With a bottle of water in one hand, she’d pull a chair, and legs stretched, watch me work, while I, her legs.

That is her, waiting at the bill counter at the supermarket, trying to verify in her head if she had borrowed the right number to get the subtraction right. Simple math, I’d snigger. She will pretend she convinced me that she was ignoring me. I will let her assume she won.

She scares me with the amount of detailing she structures me with in her eye - the subtle nuances in my gestures, tones and very presence that she had so carefully, so fervently memorized over the years she stayed silent.  The intensity knocks me off guard. And pretending to hold a deaf ear to it gets harder each time, it is almost infuriating.

Only when I wonder if it is time to throw her off the ground she was acclimatizing to, she holds her gaze with me for an instant too long, piercing me into every moment of co-existence she had breathed life into, without trying, without expecting. Nothing was ever on the platter, nothing had ever been.

For one, my t-shirt looked different on her, helping her flaunt her collarbone and everything. She had gotten into that frenzy last summer, when one by one, my favourite t-shirts went missing, one of each colour.

Last summer, when she sat in the garden and scalded her leg, pouring boiling hot tea, as she shamelessly gaped at the Vaseline on my lips, open-mouthed; no, I will not tell you what a man was doing with Vaseline.

The fool is, in all probability, writing something about me this very minute, I am sure. If only she would direct them at someone who can possibly reciprocate it all and reciprocate it well. And leave me alone and make me lie to her yet again that I do not miss her, that I do not miss yelling at her to wake up while I catch that extra fifteen minutes of sleep – sleep that was never that precious as those stolen peaceful minutes. Sleep, that she probably let go while ruffling my hair and secretly counting the number of grays, the knowledge of which she was sure to shove into my face when I least expected it.

She is now looking at something new, somewhere, and mentally making a note to describe it to me, telling herself that she would floor me with the idea. And I already know I will scoff it off, if only to see her rage in fury and call me names. She sucked at it as much as she did with the numbers.

I’ll be on my way now, thinking of her fake-punching me with all her might, with a messed up head that refuses to work when I get her anger up and simmering. I’ll be on my way home, where my clothes smell of her and where she belongs with me - she just can never know.