Do not be satisfied with the stories that are told to you. Unfold your own myth – Rumi.

Thoughts

Voices from the Northeast…

There’s a boy who makes tea for me in a shop near my place in Chennai, a Bengali named Manish. The shop is owned by a Malayali, as most tea shops down south are, but is almost exclusively staffed by North-easterners, all of them Bengalis. I was under the ignorant assumption that he was from West Bengal, when one morning, in between the writings of Saadat Hasan Manto, I peeked out from my book, and found him looking at me, in between expertly pouring tea into two glasses.

It was one of those beautiful moments India’s diversity provides us with. A boy from the French colonial town of Pondicherry, in the capital of Tamilnadu, in a Malayali tea shop, drinking tea made by a Bengali, reading a book on the Bombay of the 1940s, by an Urdu writer who was born an Indian but died a Pakistani, translated into English. Dwell on that a bit.

I asked him where exactly he was from.

The answer was prompt – Agartala, Tripura. I knew Tripura from memories of my Social Studies textbooks, but for the life of me could not remember where exactly it is on our country’s map. I came to office that day, and the first thing I did was Google ‘Political map + India’.

This is the problem we have on the ‘mainland’, as the North-easterners call all of us – we don’t know enough about our own countrymen from the hills and mountains of the East.

Or more possibly, and sadly, we just don’t care.

When Mary Kom fought valiantly for the Olympic medal and made us all pump our fists and swell our chests in joy, few knew where she was from. Manipur is so far away from our mainland imagination that it conjures up no images at all. Do the young people of our supposedly ‘vibrant, emerging nation’ know or care what makes up the lives of these people, our own people, who when they write down their addresses on letters, end with I-N-D-I-A, exactly as they do?

In August, there was a exodus of Northeastern migrants from the southern hubs of our country, most notably Bangalore, and it was one of the few times that we mainlanders have actually looked up from our self absorbed, Chetan Bhagat-reading, real estate-coveting, Shahrukh-gawking middle class lives to actually sit up and notice that there was something going on.

Most of us saw what was happening, we are a pretty intelligent lot – that there were elements trying to break up the fabric of our country, trying to seed fear in the minds of our less affluent countrymen – dedicated, hard working young people, who have to travel so far to find work so that they can feed their families back home. The Assam riots were just a trigger.

As I said, most of us noticed, but the overwhelming majority went back to what they did best – doing nothing. Only a few of us acted.

In the Bangalore railway station, students took it upon themselves to paint and display large hoardings in several north eastern languages, asking our countrymen to stay back, that this was their land as much as ours, that they will be protected, that they can live with dignity here. ‘This is our country. You are welcome here’, one said. Several rallies exalted the North-easterners’ contribution, and urged them to stay back.

I saw all this and did my bit. I went to the early morning parade of private security personnel at my IT park, almost all of them from the Northeast, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and asked to be given a chance to speak. I told them exactly what the students in Bangalore had said, that this was their country as much as mine, and a few miscreants should not make them doubt their own people.

They are welcome in Madras, in Bangalore, in Hyderabad, they are welcome anywhere in our great nation, and those who think otherwise can go fuck themselves.


India’s northeastern frontier is rife with problems, and the people have always been disillusioned with the Indian government, right from the 1962 Sino-Indian war. The old timers of Arunachal Pradesh still speak of the time when Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (allegedly) left them all to die, when he ordered the then weak and almost amateur Indian Army, battered by the superior Chinese, to retreat from the hills, leaving the people defenseless. The truth was that our first Prime Minister had no other choice. Our ill equipped and untrained soldiers were being killed in the hundreds and thousands.

Times have changed now, but consequent Delhi governments, even after so many years, have done very less to improve this image. The Northeast has fewer colleges, fewer work opportunities (everything is concentrated on the mainland), hardly any significant foreign investment. The tourism industry, which should be booming, is hampered by the Maoist threat, which in itself has been so ineptly handled by Delhi. There’s so much more. Delhi, it seems, could hardly care less. The response to the present problem itself was a joke.

Why would they trust us? Why should they? Have we given them any reason to?

If there is no coherent and collaborative effort from the Centre to root out the problems that our Northeast faces, we may soon have no ‘Seven Sisters’ to celebrate. I’m under no illusion that this will be anywhere near easy. The situations are complicated, the ground reality very different from what you and I can read and decipher.
But small steps that we take can make a big difference in our countrymen’s lives. We must take them. The time is now.

What can we do, as regular citizens? Be aware, mostly. Read the journalism that talks about them, write to people who matter, talk about this to your friends.

Our biggest crime would be not caring.

And when one of your friends uses the word ‘Chinki’, don’t rebuke them, don’t tell them off, don’t give them a lecture.

Call him/her a traitor.

There are several reasons why, but I’ll give you just one reason, and I hope its reason enough.

Manish, the boy from Tripura who works in a tea shop in Chennai to support his family of five back home in Agartala on a salary of Rs 2000, who wakes up at 4 and sleeps at 12 every single day, who sleeps on the bare floor of the shop itself, who knows only that you work in ‘computer’, this boy was wearing an Indian flag on his torn tee-shirt on August 15th.  I noticed.

He is an Indian. You, who call him ‘Chinki’, are most definitely not.


A Letter to a Lost Love…

Part One

Dear E,

How have you been?

I know this is unexpected, and you didn’t expect me to come see you, let alone write to you.
But like everything that happened between you and me, this is sudden, and impulsive, and hopefully, as beautiful as you were when I first saw you.

So, how are you?

No, don’t tell me. I’ll answer that.

I was reading when I was traveling to come see you, E, and in this month’s Caravan, I found something that put everything I wanted to tell you, in poetry.

Aasai mugam maranthu poche!
ithai yaaru idam solven adi thozhi?

I cannot remember my beloved’s face!
How do I reveal this to anyone, my friend?

Nesam marakka villai nenjam,
Inil ninaivu mugam marakkalaamo?

When my heart has not forgotten his love,
How could this mind forget his face?

Kannan mugam maranthu ponaal,
Intha kangal irunthu payanundo.

If I can forget Kannan’s face,
What use are my eyes at all?

Mahakavi Subramaniya Bharathiar writes of a woman lamenting the loss of memory, albeit a memory that she does not wish to lose – of her beloved lover’s face. The love is still there in her heart, she sings, but he’s far away now, lost to her, and she curses her eyes for not retaining his picture in them.

Sound familiar, E?

I was afraid too, you know, that I might lose you. To a weak memory. To a hectic present.

But I was most afraid of losing you, E, to time.

And if I do, E, what use are my eyes at all?

Part Two

You welcomed me back like only a woman in love can.

With mists that invoke all that is holy, with early mornings that would tempt the Gods to return, with evenings that bring with them memories of young lives lived to the full – all held close to your bosom, sometimes broken and fragmented, but never forgotten.

Never forgotten.

You were a teacher when I needed you to be, E, when the make-believe world I had constructed around myself fell apart and left me stranded on an island far far away.

You taught me to wait for the rain to come.

You taught me to look for mirages, ignore them and follow the only path that mattered, the one my heart pointed out.

You welcomed me back with poetry, and as I listened, with you by my side, to a boy proclaim his anger against society in scintillating verse, in the high notes and low guttural chords of the Devanagari script, my breath slowed to let the words sink in.

I always knew how to read, E, but it was you who taught me to write.

I walked with you on the roads where you once listened patiently to my cursing the unfairness of it all. And when I was done being unhappy, you showed me the stars in the sky, and as I tried to peer into the tiny pricks of light, some of whom twinkled to make their presence felt, I realized how trivial my troubles were.

Your roads and dirt paths will remain my life’s compass.

I see you have new lovers now, E, as there were before me, and I implore you to teach them all that you taught me. Let them not take themselves too seriously. Let them appreciate nature, and books, and poetry, and art, and friendship, and all the beauty that makes life worth living. Let them breath in the morning air and take walks in the evening fog and get drenched in your winter rain.

I hope they fall in love with you, E, like I did.

And talking about love, E, here’s something I wanted to ask you.

We never lose the ones we love, E, do we?
Parts of them stay with us, and parts of us stay with them, and the love lives on forever.

Isn’t that true?

I’ll never lose you.

And if I do, E, what use are my eyes at all?


E is Ettimadai, the village at the foot of the Anamalai mountain in the Western Ghats, where Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham, my university, stands.


The View from the 7th Floor…

My MacBook has this app called the Noisy Typer. I found it on my random traipses through the net a few weeks ago, and immediately fell in love with it.

It does a very simple thing really – it simulates the sounds that typewriters used to make as I type, and my laptop becomes, for some time at least, an old clacking, wheezing typewriter.

I can’t have it running all the time though. My office on the seventh floor of SP Infocity on the OMR here in Chennai is too busy on weekdays to handle such irritants. So here I’m on a Sunday, typing away, as a cloudy Chennai evening draws itself to a close.

Its a big IT park, SP Infocity, it might even be called huge, if I didn’t know that the TCS buildings at the far end of this same road are much much bigger. This is a hustling, bustling scene on weekdays, with people rushing in and out, grabbing quick bites in the food court, talking office politics and relationships and plans for the future.

Today, though, it wears a deserted look, not unlike a storm ravaged village. The silence seems like a farce and the almost oppressive quietness make the tinted glass seem tired and forlorn. The lawns seem lonely, the switched-off fountain sad, and the laughing, Bhojpuri song-playing guards are withdrawn and thoughtful.

You know how they say homes and buildings reflect the people that inhabit them. SP only confirms that adage.

On weekdays, when there’s work to do, the handsome skyscraper gives you a semblance of purpose, of haste, of responsibility, of things to think about and get done.

When it is left alone on weekends, on the other hand, it doesn’t know what to do with itself.

Actually, I don’t think there’s a better metaphor for the way I feel these days, and I know a lot of my friends who feel the same way.

Today, for the first time in my life, I have more books than I have time to read, more dreams than I have time to indulge in and more options than I have time to weigh.

I have a guitar, but I don’t know which song to play.

I knew that the 20s would be a difficult time, but I never knew that the questions I would have to answer wouldn’t be from without, they would be from within.

Questions. Of identity and desires. But most of all, of belonging.

That is why the view from the seventh floor of my office building on a weekend looks so bleak. The building is looking for meaning, as are the young people who’ll invade it tomorrow.

And that is why my generation goes back to things which bring back some comfort, like my Noisy Typer.

As for me, I don’t know where to go. Hello, quarter life crisis.


It’s been a privilege, Mr Dravid…

What is it about sportsmen?

What is it about them that so enthralls us, like fixes of a drug we are addicted to, makes them idols, casts them as ‘heroes’ in our perceptions of life?

Why is it that they become parts of our lives, chapters of our own stories? Why is it that their feats become so important to us, immediately summoned from memory? Why is it that their achievements becoming statistics that we know to the decimal point, spilling from our mouths, as if numbers could personify what they mean to us?

I actually don’t remember when I first watched him play. From the time I have understood, played and loved the game, I have watched him bat.

That’s a long time.

The solidity of that forward defense, the exquisite cover drive, the straightening of his head when he took guard, that slight tilt of his helmet to let out the sweat borne from hours of concentration, I have watched all of it.

I have watched him 15 years. And watching him go isn’t easy.

Much has been written about the man. But I think one word describes him best – immaculate. He was a gentleman, a man of principle, someone who thought ideals were important, a cricketer who loved books.

Many overlook how tough he was. The second highest run scorer in the history of test match cricket was a fierce warrior, a fighter, who won battles with patience and wars with concentration. He single handedly took apart the tag the Indian team had of being lousy tourists. He did things for the team no one else would have even attempted. He kept wickets when the team wanted. He opened the batting when everyone around him failed. It tells you something that Harsha titled his tribute to him ‘The Wolf who lived for the Pack’.

He sometimes gave you glimpses of the storm that raged within. Have you ever watched him bat when he was out of form, when he was going through a rough patch? For me, that was when I saw test match batting at its very best. He would groan, he would grind his teeth, he would look like a person who was battling demons. The mere act of watching it was torturously intense and would leave me spent. But he would fight on. He would grind it out. And almost all the time, he would win. I always wondered how he did it, day in and day out, how strong someone would have to be to play like that.

He was the anchor for a dazzling team, a collection of champions, and he was arguably the greatest of them. His retirement signifies a changing of the guard unlike any Indian Cricket will ever see, an era which later generations will only be able to gape at and never hope to comprehend. We were lucky, weren’t we?

He gave the greatest singular gift to a proud nation – memories. Memories, which will become stories me and many others of my generation will tell later. We will talk of a sportsman who achieved much more than his talent was capable of producing, through sheer hard work and dedication, old world values, you see. We will talk of how he would wear down the best bowlers in the world, bit by bit, ball by ball, session by session, until he could stroke that one ball through the covers.

It still is difficult to get my head around. Will he not be there? Won’t that reassuring, confident walk of his calm nerves next time India lose the first wicket somewhere abroad? Won’t our beloved Wall walk out, all steel and resolve, take guard and bat the rest of the day? Where will we go to find someone half as good?

There will never be another like him.

India’s new no. 3, I really hope you know what you are inheriting, whose shoes you will be filling. The world will judge you against the greatest one-down the world has ever seen, or probably hope to see.

You will be judged against Rahul Sharad Dravid. I hope you know how big an honor it is that your name will be spoken in the same sentence as his.


My Year, in Words…

It’s almost gone, 2011, and try as I might, I really don’t know what to label it as.

Eventful it has been, my masters is over, and I find myself working. I have changed jobs already, been lucky enough to find something I love doing. I have been distressed, I have been lost. I have been confused. I have walked for hours in the Hyderabad rain. I’ve earned real money for the first time in my life. I’ve made new friends. I’ve run away from love, hunted by the demons of my past.

I’ve tried to hide from myself, and at the same time found a way through it all.

I have lived in three different cities, each one special to me in it’s own way, each having a story of it’s own.

I don’t know what to call 2011, it has been a slideshow of emotions – mostly sad, sometimes happy, but always special. But this also means I’ve lived life, and I suppose that’s something.

I have discovered, or rather rediscovered things that used to mean a lot to me.

Music. I sang a lot this year. At parties, at friend’s places, at get-togethers, on my own. Among friends in Hyderabad, at joints in Chennai. Some times this year, music was all I had.

Cricket. I donned the red and white of the Amrita School of Business for my last university game. I bowled reasonably well, batted very badly & lost that game. It hit me hard. My final university game deserved better. I wasn’t sad about the loss – that’s part of the game, and of life. But I was certainly disappointed. At that point of time, my game could have given me some kind of solace. It didn’t. Even my beloved game deserted me.

But these won’t be the things that will say ‘2011’ when I think about them, many years from now. I will remember 2011 for something else entirely.

For abstractness, for meaning, for imprints left in the mind.

For words.

My love for the written word came back with a vengeance this year, and having nothing else to hold on to, I clung on to it with everything I had. Probably more.

It was “one of those days”, as we call them – evenings when existence seems to question itself and your heart lurches in the misty memories of times gone by. I was chatting with a friend. Nothing big, just your basic depressing gtalk chat about the futility of it all, when she said something that made my heart stop.

Sai. Love is terrible, in that one taste of it is never, ever enough.

I don’t know in what context she said this. I don’t remember. Maybe I was just being my usual cynical self, but that string of words is an observation so deep and so true, the meaning of it is enough to knock you over.

Words have a way of doing that.

I found refuge in my books this year. I read so many, sometimes a book a night. There have been nights when I’ve finished a book at 1am & started another. It has been my year of books.

I’m so thankful that I read, though. I of course don’t remember the exact moment I became a bibliophile, but it must have been something like Alberto Manguel describes here –

At one magical instant in your early childhood, the page of a book – that string of confused, alien ciphers – shivered into meaning. Words spoke to you, gave up their secrets; at that moment, whole universes opened. You became, irrevocably, a reader.

I don’t think there’s a better way that can be put.

I was woken up one morning last month by a phone call which asked me simply this – “Do you remember what you tweeted late yesterday night?” I didn’t. I just knew that I was sad, & I was sleepy. “I have sent you a mail, check.” I woke up and did what he told me to do. I checked.

Twitter has become something of a diary for me, and of millions like me around the world. It records my moods, my thoughts, my opinions, my every move.

Those 140 characters sometimes can become mirrors, reflecting things from the crevices of your soul, things you try hard to keep hidden.

My friend had sent me a curation of my tweets from the last night. It must have been a godless, moonless nightfall. For the darkness in my own words scares me.

Her haunting presence in your every waking minute. The knowledge that you never were for her what she was to you. That.

The trauma of beautiful loss. Knowing that as she walks in your head, she tramples on your dreams.

The World went on. She has moved on. But your heart screaming out what you already know – You will never be the same again. Never ever.

The letters she never wrote. The kisses that never transpired. A love that never was love. What happened doesn’t matter. What didn’t, does.

When words are all you have left. And flashes. Of memories, that is. Distant, cold. And the laughter that once ruled your life.

When all I want is for my thoughts to fade away. The flicker of a lamp, the damp of the night, her hold on my heart, the time that flew by..

The songs she demanded you sing. The rains she demanded you bring. When all she loved was what you gave her. Not you. It was never you.

Where that came from, or where it went, I do not know. But there it is.

From the contemporary science and fiction of Richard Dawkins, Ian Rankin to classics from Wodehouse, to some heartbreaking Rumi and Neruda poetry, I have uncovered gems, but some of the most beautiful pieces I read this year were not on paper at all.

This one, from someone I know only as mentalexotica, is something I just cannot have enough of.

Why I will write you four letters in one night

Because I cannot keep away from you. Because my nights are yours in thought and memory of the morning before, of the unexpected detonation of desire beneath the sheets at 6:49 am. Because my days are filled with disinterest and wild distractions both. Because your lips keep the memory of my tongue pressed upon them like unwithering flowers. Because my skin is stained by the fingerprints of your craving. Because breathing reconciles itself only with short, sharp pulls and forgets how to exhale. Because writing to you is not writing but an accident of words; colliding, spilling, revealing. Because my body is sore but my longing goes un-neutered. Because the amber-gold highlights of your hair spilling across your face tease a wicked game. Because the white in your smile is a reminder of the bruise on my neck. Because love is a four-lettered word when we make it. Because I cannot keep away from you.

I cannot keep away from you.

If that doesn’t take your breath away, I don’t know what will. I will not try to describe the words above. I don’t possess the intellect to, and I will fail miserably. I’m only a guy who reads. I’ll just get lost in the turmoil it throws my soul into.

It’s time to end 2011 on my blog. What better way than a poem? But first, a small story.

There was a boy, in London. He loved a girl madly, hopelessly. She loved him too.

And then she died in a plane crash in Canada, far away from him.

It was Christmas, 1943, World War 2. He wrote a poem in her memory.

The boy, Leo Marks, was a cryptographer. In March 1944, he used that poem, to encrypt secret messages for the Allies. He used the words he wrote for the girl he loved, to fight Hitler’s evil empire. He was fighting for nothing less than the freedom of the known world. It’s only a few lines, but they do not betray easily the secret they carry or  the emotions they were born from. Read it once, and then read it again. Then read it once more. These words demand it.

The life that I have is all that I have
And the life that I have is yours

The love that I have of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.

A sleep I shall have, a rest I shall have
Yet death will be but a pause
For the peace of my years in the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.


The Water’s Edge…

Its an evening. Like most winter evenings.

The dreary, tired sun recording the last remnants of a dying day. The cold seeping in through the void the light leaves in its wake.

I’m looking at the waves.

Messengers from the depths of the ocean, they never stop coming at the shore, professing their love, no matter how many times they are sent away.

They just keep coming. And coming.

Always.

 

They suck the sand from beneath my feet. My jeans, folded up, are still getting wet.

Do I care? Not very much.

I walk along the shore, my IDs dangling in my hand, not because I might lose my favorite sneakers, but because I like the picture of myself that way.

I like the theatre of it, intentional though it is.

 

You see, the seasons hold memories. When they change you can’t help but remember what you once thought you had forgotten.

The smell of corn. The spices on it. The roasted-over-fire-on-the-beach version.

And I feel myself slipping. The pain comes in waves. And keeps coming. Fitting, really.

 

You’ve seen the dark and you’ve seen the light,

the sides of me that I’m trying to fight.

I’m bruised and I’m broken, I’m made of glass.

I shine for a moment, but I shatter fast.

 

I’m more alone than I sometimes think I’m.

I’ve brought a book along. I sit on the sand, and read a few pages, but there’s too much in my head to fight.

I usually try my best to win that fight, but not today. I  like feeling depressed at times. It is definitely better than feeling nothing. Which I also feel a lot of.

 

Kids trying to shoot balloons with air guns. Ice Cream stalls. The Chatwala. The Flower sellers. Cotton Candy. Me.

 

Coffee. Maybe that would help.

There’s a Barista just opposite. I get myself a Latte. The hot, brown concoction has a smile on it. I smile back. It’s the least I can do.

I’m back outside. On the ledge. Facing the water.

 

It’s dark. The stars are out. I can make out a few constellations. I have forgotten their names now, been so long since I watched the sky.

I sit there, coffee in hand, bound by my own chains, as the black of the approaching night threatens to engulf me in all its eager glory.

 

I’ve found it hard. To forget.

But you know what I found even harder?

To remember.

How it felt. To be happy.

 

Because I have no scars to show for happiness.

 

I give up, I said finally to the cold sky.

I walk back to the bike, the world around me a blur, wondering if tears can freeze.


One Winter to the Next…

It’s a cool, calm evening in office as I save my work and close my MacBook, trying to figure out if I’ve done enough for the day. This is a daily exercise, the introspection of my own worthiness, of whether I’m doing justice to the role that I’m supposed to be doing. Some days are really good, I think “Yay, that was a good day.” Some days I’m like, “WTF, I barely got anything done today.” I’m a Libra, and true to the balances that rule me, I oscillate between states of mind, moods and choices, for that perfect state of equilibrium, a Libra’s perennial search.

I wake up in the morning sometimes and am totally astonished that I’m working, and that I’m not a kid anymore. I totally freak out when it hits me sometimes that I’m an MBA. It seems as if it was just yesterday that I was going to school in Pondicherry. How did I ever do all this?  All my life I’ve rarely been worried about anything, I’m one of those guys who don’t give a damn what grades they get, what amount of trouble they get into, or anything at all, really, but I’ve always been petrified of being responsible for something. But here I’m, in charge of something, and my team trusts me to do the job. Believe me, that’s the only motivation that really works.

Boss drops me back halfway in his car, and my friend picks me up on his bike at the end, but I have to navigate a stretch of the way in a dreadful machine called a share auto. I hate the ride, but I love the view. This is the Old Mahabalipuram Road, now quite affectionately (and stylishly) called the OMR, and this, is the Chennai IT corridor. It isn’t a very pretty place. But then I don’t think that was ever the idea. What it is, is imposing, and huge, and strangely desolate.

Every IT/ITES firm that you can name is here. From the behemoths of India’s software revolution, TCS, CTS, Wipro and Infosys, to the foreign players like ebay, Paypal to the HCLs and the Aspires and the Syntels, everyone is here. There would be at least a hundred thousand people (easily) who call huge structures on this road their office. I find it all a bit overwhelming, so I find my space in the little bubble that my ipod gives me.

The buses just keep coming in the mornings, they never seem to stop, and there’s the general contagious feeling that whatever you are supposed to be doing, you have to do it fast. It has been raining a bit since I came here, and almost everyone I know here has told me that they’ve been surprised by this. I’m not. Rain follows me around. It’s as if I’m a magnet. Its one of the few things in life that I’ve always been sure about, that the rain is my friend.

The winter’s coming. Well, winter on south India’s east coast is not much of a winter, but there will be some time when it gets really cold. I treasure those moments. I don’t know why, but I do. I’m truly me when its cold, or when its raining, or when I’m sitting in my room with no power and listening to the raindrops falling outside.

I remember last winter, even though I don’t really want to. Easily the worst period of my life, it feels strange when I look back at it. It feels like a movie playing out in front of my eyes, something that I can watch, but am not really a part of. Last winter changed me in more ways than one, and while some are changes you can see, there are changes even I don’t seem to realize until pointed out.

I cut myself off from everyone last month. I quit, switched off my phone, forgot about the internet and went back home, just as Dad and Mom were done renovating the house.

It took me a week to do up my new room. I brought out all my books, accumulated over my years and years of reading. They’ve been languishing in Dad’s old Air Force service boxes for years. They all have their own place now. The new bookshelf I had made for my room wasn’t nearly enough for all my books, so I had to have still more glass cases built. My room now looks like an old library, but that’s how I always wanted it to look like. It isn’t Neil Gaiman’s beautiful room of books, but its mine, and I’m head over heels in love with it.

I also brought out all my favorite photos, from school, engineering and from my unforgettable days at business school, they have a special corner of the wall to themselves.

There’s a photo of five people on the lawn outside our canteen at Amrita, huge smiles on our faces, which is bang in the middle of them all. Together, that’s what we called that album. We all broke apart, in a way that we could never have imagined. But again, that picture captured what we had then, as only a photograph can. It’s a moment I’ll hold in my heart forever. And maybe after that too.

I discovered a collection of old poems in the trove of hardcovers that I had in one of my boxes. I read them all on a cold, clammy , rained out night, in the light of my table lamp, and one of them stayed with me since.

Written in 1941 by Russian poet and playwright Konstantin Simonov when he was on the battlefront during World War 2, the poem implores the girl he loved, Valentina Serova, to wait for him. He says that he would come back alive, not because of luck, not because of fate, but because of the very fact that she would be waiting for him through it all. It’s a timeless celebration of love, and it’s called, quite aptly, “Wait for Me.”

Wait for Me – by Konstantin Simonov

Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait with all you’ve got!
Wait, when dreary yellow rains
Tell you, you should not.
Wait when snow is falling fast,
Wait when summer’s hot,
Wait when yesterdays are past,
Others are forgot.
Wait, when from that far-off place,
Letters don’t arrive.
Wait, when those with whom you wait
Doubt if I’m alive.

Wait for me, and I’ll come back!
Wait in patience yet
When they tell you off by heart
That you should forget.
Even when my dearest ones
Say that I am lost,
Even when my friends give up,
Sit and count the cost,
Drink a glass of bitter wine
To the fallen friend –
Wait! And do not drink with them!
Wait until the end!

Wait for me and I’ll come back,
Dodging every fate!
“What a bit of luck!” they’ll say,
Those that would not  wait.
They will never understand
How amidst the strife,
By your waiting for me, dear,
You had saved my life.
Only you and I will know
How you got me through.
Simply – you knew how to wait –
No one else but you.