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


The Wind in her Wake…

The wind in her wake

I unplugged the charger and picked up my phone from the bare table. I had removed the tablecloth some time ago and the peeling paint revealed patches of rust, like scars suddenly thrown open to the world.

My bags were packed; the huge suitcase was full and locked, and my abandoned mattress lay in a corner of the room. It was too much of a bother to lug it all the way home, and anyway hostels could do with spare mattresses. The warden would find use for it.

I made to walk out, but then turned and looked at my room again. It was like I’d found it when I first opened the doors two years ago – empty and clean. Except it had been bright when I’d arrived, the cheery sunlight painting the floor tiles orange.

It’s dark today when I’m leaving, the mountain wind blowing in with the night.

I carried my luggage down the stairs, having to do it twice to get all my stuff down.

Everything was done, then. The hostel formalities, the farewells to the professors, the promises to friends about meeting soon, the packing, the last walk through the campus, the last dinner at the mess, the last class, the last exam. I had in my hand the piece of paper that declared that my post graduate studies were over and that I could leave.

That was it, then. I could leave.

I sat down on the suitcase at the hostel door, my knees bending with the weight of hundreds of memories.

There was a mountain there right in front of me, but I couldn’t see it. It was hidden by the night. Everyday, I had opened my eyes to the mist on this mountain, unconsciously taking an indelible picture. Tomorrow morning, it would still be there, but I wouldn’t see it.

I couldn’t put it away anymore. I took the phone out.

And called.

The ringing. To my ears it seemed a shrill, foreign sound. It unnerved me.

I hadn’t talked to her in ages. I didn’t know how long it’d been. I didn’t even know if she wanted to say goodbye. But I had to tell her I was going; it seemed the right thing to do.

I would never think of my time here without thinking of her, and she would never be able to think of her time here without thinking of me. I couldn’t leave just like that. We owed that much to each other.

She picked up.

“Hello”, she said, and the blowing wind paused to hear her voice.

“Hey”, I said.

Silence. It must have been five seconds or so, but it felt like more. A lot more. Like when you sit on a bus and think about something in your past and you travel across time and space and pain and memory and are lost and when you look up again, you realize you are still in the bus. That kind of a silence.

“I’m leaving”, I said.

“Now?”, she asked.


“I’ll wait at the gate”, she said.

She hung up.

Wait at the gate. Okay.

The cab arrived and I threw all that I had inside. I stole one last look at the hostel and the volleyball courts and the invisible mountain as the driver sped up. It’s strange how the things you’ve been seeing for days and months, things you know well but don’t really notice, how they suddenly seem so different and beautiful when you know you won’t see them again.

As the bend opposite my department arrived I asked the driver to stop.

I needed to go back there one last time.

Something that belonged to me was still there.

The lawn had just been watered, and my shoes made squishy sounds as I walked towards the entrance. No one was there, and in that darkness, the greenery looked richly desolate.

I knew where I had to go.

The student board had one of my hand written poems in it. I wanted it back. Taking it was my way of signifying that my life was moving; it was going somewhere else, though I didn’t know where yet.

It was then that I saw that there was nothing there. The board was empty, save the small glinting brown pins.

I turned back.

The empty board was telling me something too. I didn’t have to take anything back. My poem was already gone; it didn’t belong here anymore.

Nor did I.

I sat in the cab, the dull thud of the closing door startling me.

This was it.

I didn’t know if I had it in me. To say this goodbye. I’d thought about this so many times, what I would say to her, what I would feel, how we both would explain to each other what had happened to us in this university between the mountains, where our romance had threatened to burn forests down.

Once upon a time we’d been in love, and we’d screwed it up beautifully, she in her own way, and I in mine, and we’d lost each other to each other, if that makes any sense.

And now I was going to see her, perhaps for the last time.

I told the cab to stop near the gate, where the railway crossing was closed for the train, and walked back towards the ATM on the side road, the asphalt crackling under my feet.

She was where I knew she would be, near the tree with the huge yellow flowers; she was reading. I stopped, I couldn’t go on. She saw me, stood and walked towards me. I just stared.

I remembered kissing her in that very ATM, remembered her running into my arms in the backstage darkness after our super-successful fest, remembered putting her to sleep on trains when we travelled, remembered looking into her eyes during presentations, remembered watching her order all the food that I would have to finish.

I remembered so much.

I hated it that I remembered everything.

She had come up to me, soundlessly, like only she could.

“So”, she said.

She was all of five feet, and once she’d been half of the rest of me.

I looked into her eyes, beautiful and not sad at all, and I knew she was. She was like that, she was the opposite of what you saw in front of you. She was beyond gorgeous, and even in that darkness, she could not help but glow. That was why she was so beautiful, because she never paid attention. She had other things to do in life.

I didn’t say anything.

“When is the train?”, she asked.


“Mine is early tomorrow”, she said, even though I hadn’t asked.

I had lost her, and it was a loss that I would never be able to reconcile with. Maybe later, years later, but not now. Or maybe never. It was that kind of a love. We’d been that kind of lovers.

The night train passed the crossing in a deafening rush, the ground vibrating beneath us, and the gate opened with the familiar mechanical rattle.

“I love you”, I said finally, my voice breaking just when I did not want it to.

When we were together, I always kept my hand on her head when she was worried or upset or when I felt she needed me. It calmed her, and sometimes she herself asked me to do it.

It was our own little gesture of understanding and commitment, our own small secret.

She took my hand and placed it on her head, her eyes holding back tears of her own.

The cab driver honked.

“Take care, baby”, I said.

“You too”, she said, and before I could say anything more, she turned and started walking back.

I stood there, looking at the girl I’d loved and lost. And it took me some time to realize what I’d seen in her other hand, what she’d been reading.

I’d called that poem ‘the wind in her wake’.

The line ‘She was all of five feet, and half of the rest of me’ was inspired by this post on Alfaaz ki Barsaat, and another post of her’s gave me the words ‘burning forests down’, which I use in the beginning of this story. Y’all should go read her poetry. She’s just amazing.


A Box of Sweets…

Written during a fiction writing workshop with writer Jerry Pinto at the British Library, Bangalore, this is my first work to be critiqued, reviewed and rewritten dozens of times. Originally meant to be a 500 word short story, it stumbled on to 700, and is part of my attempt to capture something of Madras and its people. Read.

4 pm is a strange time, she thought. It’s not the evening, and its not afternoon either. It’s a slow, strange time. She adjusted the basket on her hip, and resumed.
“Meenu Meenu, Sangarameenu”, her loud voice echoed unnaturally, reflected back from the jutting iron beams, the mounds of sand and the un-plastered bricks of the new houses.

There were only a few fish left today, an amount she would usually take home to cook, but the lady at the end of this street often bought some at this time. She ambled on, her path now familiarized with routine, past the Bihari laborers shouting incoherently at each other, past the one-eyed dog wagging its tail with interest, past the overflowing drain where a big dead rat was being fought over by a few crows, to the large metal gate, painted a deep, morose brown.

It was only when she peeked in, ready to announce her arrival, did she actually see the bikes and scooters outside the house, the rising homam smoke, and all the people. “A pooja”, she thought as she turned around instinctively, already thinking about what she could make with the fish for the children’s dinner.

“Irunga ma”, a voice called. Wait. She turned around to see a boy come bounding across the portico, dodging the swing and dozens of chappals. She recognized him, it was the lady’s school-going son.

He arrived before her in a second, and handed her a box of sweets. Before the gift could be acknowledged and thanked for, he had already jumped back into the smoke and the commotion in a flash of teenage feet.

Ah, something for the kids, she thought, as her legs picked up pace unconsciously and cut through the market. She could not wait to get home now. David and Nancy would already be back from school, and they would eat sweets tonight.

She had reached the main road, and now had to take a share auto home. Five rupees was a lot of money, and she usually walked the whole distance, but today was special. She put down the basket, smoothed her saree, tied her hair up again and squatted by the bus stop. It had been a good day, there was money in the cloth purse at her waist and it hadn’t been that hot.

The Madras evening descended around her, the breeze trying to assert the ocean’s proximity, as she threw her basket in the back of the share auto.

And amidst the young man immersed in his phone, the old man with the jute bag and a frowning girl, she saw Nirmala.

“Akka”, she called out happily. “Adiyei, vaa vaa”, said Nirmala, and the two friends jostled for space in the cramped vehicle.“Hospital la enna sonnaanga?”, she asked eagerly. What did they say at the hospital? Nirmala just smiled. “Please ka, sollunga ka”, she implored.

Nirmala turned and smiled, “Solren, shhh”.

It seemed like a long time to her, the 5 minute ride that usually was over in a jiffy, before the auto driver cried out “SRP Tools!” Both of them got off and picked up their baskets.

“Naa amma aaga poren di”, said Nirmala quietly, as the roar of the auto died away into the cacophony of the Old Mahabalipuram Road.

I’m going to be a mother.

She did not add ‘at last’, because her friend knew. David was 10, Nancy 8, & Nirmala, two years older than her. Though she often tried to understand what her friend must feel, she knew she never would. She would never understand what Nirmala had gone through.

“Sweet kudunga Akka”, she asked Nirmala, and immediately regretted it. Nirmala never had any money. Her friend’s husband, unlike her own, was a drunk.

She put her basket down, pulled away the sack under which she had hidden the sweet box, and thrust it into Nirmala’s hands.

Nirmala looked at the box and turned away, managing to get the two words out before her voice broke, “Apa pasangalukku?”

For the children?

“Meenu Meenu Sangarameenu”, she cried out loudly and smiled, raising the basket to her hips as the street lights came on above them.

You made the Devil fall in love with you…

the devil came and told me on a lonely cold winter night when the wind blew itself into frenzies of icy hopelessness that I could spend this night however I want to but only this freezing night and that tomorrow my soul would be his I asked him for one more night with you not just any other night but like that night when we held hands before getting on a train together a journey I wished had gone on forever and ever on cast iron tracks of love into a darkness that I still can’t forget it was an amazing darkness as you sat there opposite me as the southern plains ran past us but we couldn’t see them because it was dark and anyway all I had eyes for was you and after some blessed time you blushed and told me to look away but I did not I could not for I did not know how long the magic would last and I wanted to lock it up in ancient oakwood treasure chests and bury them on lost islands across silver oceans so no one else would ever find it and in a way no one ever would because that night on a train under orange lights your smile was mine and I was the happiest boy on the whole fucking planet of course the devil did not understand what that night meant to me like he can never hope to understand what rainbows mean to country girls or what the smell of fresh rain on earth means to a farmer in a desert village or what the old seaman with gnarled hands pushing his catamaran out to sea on a misty dawn feels every time he points its snout out to the great waters of the world the devil will never understand that your eyes still even after all these years hold my salvation in them and that your lips hold in them the nectars of the gods and that the memory of the touch of your skin is all I need until the end of days I asked to spend a night like when we went out to dinner to that expensive high-roller restaurant with a live band and when they took requests you asked them to sing shania twain’s you are still the one and that was the first song they sang because who could refuse you ever and when they sang you turned and smiled at me a smile laden with meaning a smile borne of a thousand suns and I knew the song was for me and I never forgot it as we held hands and listened to music timeless and music pure sung for us by two musicians from the continent who looked straight at us and sang in voices that carried in them the romance of the great wars of the west voices that evoked parisian street lights and spanish mysteries and then we looked at each other and it was the most beautiful feeling I would ever know of course the devil can’t understand why I was smiling like an idiot i mean how can he understand what love means the meaninglessness of it and yet its profoundness the narrowness of it and yet its all encompassing glory he’s the devil he has no fucking idea so the last dregs of the dying night just before my soul would be sold to evil forever lost cast away into molten depths of the night I asked to walk with you through the falling yellow leaves of the university paths where the monsoon still keeps our story under a purple umbrella because it could not bear to let us go we could not hold hands then someone would see but it was all good because the yearning to touch each other to feel your fingers in mine to clasp them together to hold you was how I felt what love is what love could be and that was how I first knew that I had fallen deeply irrevocably fatally in love with you and that whatever happened my soul would be yours and this is exactly when the devil understood that he had been tricked and that my soul would never be his and when I stood there smiling in the winter night he looked into my memories and looked at your face and even as he took my soul because a bargain is a bargain he asked me she was worth it wasn’t she and I told him yes more than you ever will know but then I looked into his dark eyes burning with the perpetual red fires of hell and I saw an infinite sadness in black eyelashes drooping under the shadows of centuries of evil and I knew in a flash of chilling heat that astonishingly amazingly he knew he understood he actually did – you had made the devil fall in love with you

Remember Me…

It was not the normal cold that morning.

It was different. Something more, something approaching freezing but not there yet. It was a feel-miserable kind of cold, as if the morning knew what was coming, and was preparing for it.

My phone rang around 6. I wasn’t asleep, nor awake, nor dreaming. Whatever I was, I wasn’t ready.
It was a friend from University. I could only remember snatches from that conversation later. It wasn’t even a conversation – he talked for two minutes as I felt my heart grow cold like the wind outside.

I was running even before my eyes could adjust to waking up. Nandita, jogging, accident, hospital. The words repeated themselves like a cassette stuck in my father’s old Panasonic tape recorder.

I ran.

This is not happening. This is not happening.

My mind, bewildered and shocked into a state of mind I’ve never known, kept repeating the line, as if by doing so, I would wake up from the dream & after some time, laugh at it all.

I didn’t wake up. This was no dream.

The antiseptic whiteness of the hospital welcomed me, the neon lights lit up in a morbid smile at the nurse’s desk. “Nandita”, I blurted out, letting my hastily wiped away tears do the rest of the talking. “She’s being operated upon”, she added as she told me where to go.

Operated upon? Nandita? My Nandita? Oh fuck.

Oh fuck.

Her parents were there, the professor and the banker. And Rohan was with them.

He nodded at me. I nodded back.

He came up to me. “Milk van”, he said, through pained, lost eyes. “The driver was drunk”. I nodded again. Both of us stood together in an awkward expression of mutual tragedy.

Until it all became too much for me. I ran to the rest room and threw up.

I was asleep on the stairs in the hospital corridor, my classmates standing around me, when she died.

I never said goodbye.

The days that followed remain blurred. It must have been day later, I think, when I went to our empty classroom on a whim, sat down at my desk, looked at her place, and promptly lost it.

I rushed outside and walked to the far end of the playground, where, guarded by that minor mass of young humanity, I could sit down and let it all out. I looked out into the distance, the running and the shouting and the crack of cricket bat against ball and the sound of footballs being kicked all dissolving into one huge din of background noise. All I could feel was a hole in my chest. Unable even to cry, I just looked.

Into nothingness.

Because that was all I had now.


How did ‘us’ happen? We were in our third year, not exactly spring chickens. We were bookworms, the both of us, romantics, yarn-spinners, prolific walkers, put together in a class by an irritating professor who will never know what she started. There was a time when both of us forgot that there was such a thing as time. But before that day, I’d never given the girl with the glasses a second thought.

It was a Friday afternoon, and it was raining, a few drops of which found their way inside through the window onto our desk. Both of us weren’t writing anything, and as we sat there, each of us in a world of our own, my bored eyes found the book in her satchel. I pointed at it, & she passed it to me silently, almost reverently.

It was Murakami. Norwegian Wood.

I turned the pages of the well worn book, one of those lovely old editions you find at second hand bookshops.

I want you always to remember me. Will you remember that I existed, and that I stood next to you here like this?

She had underlined this sentence.

It was 11 by the time I said goodbye to her and started walking back to my hostel. She called at 11:03.

I talked to her all night and met her for breakfast at the University canteen next morning. I talked to her all day and all night again and took her out to the town on Sunday. We only stopped talking on Monday morning. Because we had classes to get to. And we resumed immediately when the classes got over.

I had never talked to her before. Not once.

It was sorcery. Magic of a kind that had never happened to me before.

And it went on and on. It just never stopped.

Until it did.

It was three months since that rainy day, the day a book brought us together in a way we could not understand, let alone try to explain.

It had been four days since the drunk driver of a milk van had run down a girl out for a jog on a winter morning.

I was sitting on the lawn opposite the canteen, when I made out the shape of Rohan walking in my direction. I wished he would go away. I did not want to talk to anybody, least of all him. But he kept coming, a faraway figure coming into focus as he came nearer and sat next to me.

It was some time before he talked. “You okay, man?”, he asked. I just nodded. “His parents don’t know about you, they still think she and I were together”, he said. I nodded again. I knew all this. He knew I knew all this.

Not that I didn’t want her parents to know me. Not that I didn’t feel like shit when they consoled a crying Rohan. Not that I didn’t want to tell them that we were together, had been for three months and loved each other in a way that could only be described as madly.

I did, I wanted all of it. But I had no spirit in me to tell them. They were grieving, as I was, and they had enough to think about. They’d brought her up, from when she was a baby to a child to a young woman. I’d known her three months. Three roaring months, yes, when we did not know where she ended and I began. But three months nevertheless. 90 days. It felt so short when I put it that way.

He started to walk away. The he turned, & said “Wait here”.

I didn’t say anything.

He came back in an hour or so, by which time I’d forgotten that he had asked me to wait. I was still sitting there on the lawn, as the winter air enveloped me.

“Here”, he said, “Her books. Her parents gave them to me. You should have them.”

I took the satchel from him, the touch of it sending me into world of pain. I showed him none of it, though, as I got off the lawn and walked away.

I held them close to my chest, as close as I could without choking, as I cried on the walk back to my room. The darkness hid my tears and I was thankful. I didn’t want pity or consolation. I’d had more than enough of it.

I opened her satchel. She loved Murakami most of all, as I did. But she also loved Dostoyevsky, Pasternak and the master, Gogol. I’d never read the Russians, but she worshipped them. There were five books in it, of which one I’d given her. The rest of her quite sizable library was at her parent’s home, I knew. A pang of regret stung me again. I should have known them, I cursed myself. I should have.

But we thought there was time, another voice said.

There seemed to be so much time.

I took out the books one by one. There was Doctor Zhivago, The Brothers Karamazov, Crime and Punishment, the book I’d given her – IQ84, and lying at the bottom, oblivious of everything it had done, was the old, tattered copy, of Norwegian Wood.

I knew it was there in that satchel of hers. I knew it the moment Rohan gave it to me.

I took it out and turned the pages to find a particular sentence the girl I loved had considered beautiful enough to mark, and remember.

I want you always to remember me. Will you remember that I existed, and that I stood next to you here like this?

Even as renewed tears rushed out and dampened the page, already tainted with the stain of a memory it would have to carry forever, I wrote one word beside the line her pencil had made.


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.

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