The power of now

His eyes twinkle with love, excitement and his ears fall back out of pure joy. He runs in circles, slower than before and playfully looks up, white opaque cataracts staring at my face. Growing old has never been more painful. Suddenly, I don’t want to be a day older, I don’t want the clock to move along. I want time to stand still, absolutely still while I soak up the moment and swallow my tears.

It is a wonder I never realized the true power of time before. Maybe it was the excellent parenting that shielded my tween and adolescent mind from the eventual confrontation with the reality of aging. It has been an experience, a journey and a privilege. I share my deepest fears with no-one and bear the smaller heartbreaks and focus on the present.

This ability to absolutely live in the moment is rather new to me. My eyes and brain used to drift away, full of dreams, expectations or laden with memories and dart in various directions, time and places. They do transcend the barriers of time and dive into the trove of happy memories now and then, but I bring it back to the now, the future with its bleak uncertainty and certain sadness, the past re-kindling moments of joy I can never replicate. The present is all I have, the smallest interval of time that stands relatively still where I can feel happiness and unbroken joy.

Maybe I am scared of losing him or maybe I am no longer as brave and unfettered in planning the future because of the realities that ground me. But living in the moment has given me clarity of thought and a meditative space to live in, free from the burdens or sadness of thought. I move forward in these tiny pockets of the present, slowly stringing them along to make memories. If this sounds deep and philosophical, it is because only now, I understand the power of now.

 

Struggle is life

Never did words hit her so forcefully before as she sat staring out at the storm clouds, hands hung purposefully mid-air startled by the sudden realization. The air was heavy and moist, she could smell the rain as tears stung her eyes. Struggle wasn’t alien to her, just this time, she wasn’t struggling to go someplace. It was merely to stay afloat. That sent a chill down her spine that had nothing to do with a gust of strong wind that suddenly caused the branches to bristle outside her window.

Life, as she knew it, had changed. Responsibilities had dawned on her that she didn’t anticipate. She had always known marriage would lead to new unforeseen experiences. He was her best-friend, lucky as she felt to have married him, the pain and bitterness she had endured to reach this place had changed her. Suddenly, she didn’t know this person completely. Over the last four years, so many beautiful experiences had colored her life but some pain and anguish had always accompanied them. The thrill and anticipation of new experiences in her personal life had slightly waned now that she had experienced life a little more completely.

Illness of someone she loved more than life itself had scared her. She braved along, eternally hopeful that one day things would be the same as they were. She survived the days of disappointment, rejoiced in the moments of familiar love and laughter but fear of loss had raised its ugly head. She had fought for the love of her life, against people she idolized often questioning the reality and depths of love itself. She often asked herself if this is where she pictured she would be. She had completed her doctorate, but felt no different and a tad less excited than she imagined she would feel. She felt sad and lonely at times when surrounded by friends. She realized her family was human, full of anger and bitterness and remorse but also of love and perseverance. She heard experiences of near and dear that scared her and changed her beliefs about our culture and life. She had heard heartwarming stories of neighborly love, ever-lasting friendships and past-lives with a tinge of disappointment that she would never experience them.  She realized that her parents, husband and everyone she knew was human and evolving and coping with life. She drew strength from the tiniest of jumps and tail-wags after a three day illness. She knew that this time – happy or sad, too shall pass.

“Struggle is life” is what made sense to her finally. Everyone is struggling – laughing, crying, surviving and learning every single day. It is a profound truth, one that makes you smile to realize you are also human and also love to appreciate what you have, one second at a time. It suddenly seemed so innately fundamental to life that she felt strangely stupid not realizing it earlier. Courage, she thought, is the power to remain who you are despite what life throws at you. Suddenly, the struggles didn’t seem so much as struggles as life itself.

She looked down at the little black nose now snoring soundly on her lap and thought – it is so worth it!

Change..

The air seemed heavy, scented with wild jasmine and Hawaiian flowers that she had never felt or touched but had dreamt of. She felt like she was so far away at that moment as she moved her hands across her silky negligee touching it to feel its soft familiarity. The world blurred across outside the French windows. The sun began to cast shadows and the streetlamps came live. She felt cold and scared as she looked into his deep eyes with an air of distant wonder. “Who is he?”, the voice in her head quivered. The mind didn’t reply. No one did.

The room was minimal yet comfortable and everything there had its own neat little story. She didn’t move but her eyes followed him as he stood up and left, out of the door. There was a numbing silence inside her. The heavy air gave off fake warmth like everything in her life had until now. She stopped her mental self from jumping into that well of questions, swimming against sharks of doubt and worry. There was only one thing certain in her life now. Change. She wanted it, secretly, passionately. But now that it was so near, she was terrified.

It was long over.  There was this confused thread of leftover feelings that kept them tied to each other. There had been no change in anything material but there seemed to be some coldness that had crept in like a shadow in the deep alleyways of the mind, silent and dark. There were no words to describe those feelings. She had been there before, but not here. There are no words to quantify attraction. There was no real contempt, but it surely was present.  The temptation to hang on, the desire to continue in the boat of comforts than swim to an unknown shore.  The words were polite and soft, perhaps more tender than ever before but there was a an eerie chill, that converted all insides to stone.

The happy times rolled along, bringing together the wave of shared laughter, that pleasant memory or the joyous company. The non-descript feelings filled the air between the occasional sentences, the mind occupying a different world. There was a heaviness everywhere, that ominous feeling of a storm approaching, that event that could shake up everything she has held on to so far.

It was dark and the curtains billowed in the light wind. The leaves rustled outside reminding her of the present, that beautiful night where everything was quiet and untouched.

Until now.

The unexpected..

All it takes is a magical moment. When you are so busy making other plans with your life, that special someone just blitzes in. And you never realize what happened unless it does. Happiness that you’ve missed for so long comes rushing back making peace with your mind. When you have decided to take total control of your life, you suddenly lose it and then just enjoy the moments.

The long car drives in heavy rain.

The night you forgot your credit card at the restaurant.

My surprise birthday cake and the romantic dinner.

Watching you go ballistic when Rajnikanth popped up on screen.

Your absolute ignorance of all things girly and bollywood-y and fashion-y.

Your innate ability to pick amazing dresses at Macy’s and pretend you are not interested.

Your love for calenders and pineapples.

The composer in you and your total lack of interest in books.

Your face as it lights up when you talk about Sachin or Federer or bacteria.

The amazing Sambhar you make.

And many many more such small things that make your company so desirable.

Thank you for coming into my life and bringing magic back into it.

Closure

I was smiling peacefully. There was a finality in my exhaled breath that somehow trickled cool sensations into my head.My fingers gently clicked the mouse button and shut the computer. Finally the moment had arrived. After two years of extensive debating, thinking, rationalizing, I decided it was time. I had tried to forget him no end, gave my best to erase those happy moments and try to move on with life. I did succeed. Only in parts.

My attempts were futile.I made a list of things I hated about him. With every point that I mentally took up, a barrage of words and conversations opened up. Then came the memories of the laughs I shared or the total outrage at his jokes. Before I knew it, those very negative points changed sides. That happened to all of them.This wasn’t working. I asked myself this question. What do I really want ?

My answer came after nearly two years. When I had thought that he would never resurface, he did. When I felt like the world was crashing around me, it did. The whole painful saga of a love story falling apart happened and this kept pricking me like a nail sticking out of a wooden desk. I kept asking what I wanted to know. I already had all the answers. But then, the answer to that question came rather simply – closure.

I wanted it to end. End with finality. I did not want anything to ruin the fresh smell of coffee I had, no bad tastes, no distracting aromas. I knew his answer already. It had always been clear. It wasn’t a question anymore. It was a statement. And he needed to know.

I empathized with him completely all this time. There are many people who end up liking you and you never harbor any such mushy feelings for. When he/she becomes rather regular in talking to you or chatting with you, you suddenly dont want to talk to them. You want them to deflect their feelings. You run, answer them rudely, cock up excuses to shorten conversations and try your mighty best to avoid any contact at all. It is a very humane response. It somewhere deep down inside you inflates your ego, but your exterior self is far from pleased with that person. It was all familiar. Rather common.

For the first time I realized where exactly I had stood all these years. Just one of those who like you and make it rather irritatingly obvious. A tinge of guilt hit me. Maybe, I shouldn’t have done that I thought, or not said this. But it hardly made a difference any longer.I suddenly thought of all those I had hastily brushed aside when they tried to get too close. I felt bad. I realized how they would have felt then.My heart fell like a stone. It just ached at the thought of the many who I had put through this ordeal. I had made a mistake I vowed never to repeat.

There are two kinds of people in this world. Or maybe more, but in this respect, it is just two. One who are bold enough to tell you that they think the world of you and like you, the other just hide those feelings deep inside and continue to expect a miracle to happen. I definitely belong to the former. I am unabashedly frank even in matters where it maybe shouldn’t. If I like or love a person, they need to know it. I maybe bad at being sly or flirty or any of those subtle-hint-giving, but I am not afraid to tell it honestly. I do not expect reciprocation one bit but my honesty is a trait. A trait I don’t want to give up for anything. Not even for the male-female stereotypical behaviour expected in society even today.

There are people who just walk into your life and change it without warning. It happened to me too. Not once, twice.

I had cleared my mind that day. I had gotten rid of the  biggest burdens I had been carrying since I decided to rub this messy portion of my life and start afresh. I had achieved closure.

I slept like a baby that night.

Fresh coffee…

I stood facing the warm evening breeze, my phone still warm from the conversation. I was thinking of the funny thing he said last. After a very long time, I smiled to myself; smiled nonchalantly, unmindful of even smiling. Perhaps this is what being truly happy felt like. I walked back slowly to my room, and sat on my bed, reminiscing about the last four months and more of my life.

 

It had been hell to break up with him. Though, I did mention that all feelings were happy and gay, those feelings did burn up and rot, like smolders of ash fly away after a fire. I felt hurt and bad, let down and helpless and an irritation like no other crept up inside. I tried to fight those feelings away, consoling myself that this was the best thing I had done and it was good eventually. I used to cringe inside whenever he spoke of something hurtful and his words continued to pierce me, like hot blades. There was anger, irritation and frustration. All that, until today.

 

I don’t know if it is love this time. I don’t want to tag it and give it names given by the masses of people. Crush, love, date, fling, all this suddenly seems so shallow, like some categories you try and fit your life into whereas in reality you have actually lost your bearings. It is one of those things where you feelings hover somewhere in the middle of two such tags and each tag begins to scare you and load you with its share of commitments and promises. I was happy being free. Happy not to have promised anyone anything. But maybe, I was happy because some such people are there who genuinely care about me despite my flaws and shortcomings. I had met a few of them at least.

 

I refuse to think this time about anything or anyone as anything; me or the few who have made my life so enjoyable lately. I have begun to enjoy the conversations, the chit-chats about people and rubbish, the vain attempts at flirting with each other, the discussions about books or music, the innumerable lol’s on the gtalk windows or the eager expectation of the long detailed mails or phone calls, the teasing, taunting, the messaging or the amusing jokes, the philosophy we share and mash up to create our new ideals or the heavy betting on the cricket teams often laced with the most colorful words. It all seems so much fun again without the dreary feeling of sinking into that quicksand of breakups.

 

Hmm…the gooey feelings in my heart are warm and fresh. Again.

 

I have woken up and smelt the coffee.

Finally.

 

(Don’t ask me who it/he/they is/are, I feel it is better this way)

Not so mushy anymore..

What happens when the person who usually makes you happy starts making you cry? You feel like asking yourself where did all that love and happiness go ? Where was the boy who made your day, made you feel light and happy after every conversation, not brood and stare blankly at the ceiling often after half-cut and agitated calls?

I dont think it is the distance. I dont think it was the time or place. What happened suddenly to make the whole fantasy flight crash, I do not know. But it did. Crashed, more like fell off air, leaving everything charred and in a wreck. You feel uncertain, unsure, afraid to hurt the person, but every morning you wake up with a plethora of random thoughts bubbling in your head “Why did he say that last night ?”, “He never spoke like this”, “Oh! Third night in a row i’ve cried”, “It was never like this”.

Before you know it, it already has ended.

I had two options in front of me, to continue the relationship, fight everyday, not happy from inside and to pretend that everything is alright when it was not or be honest and tell him it is not what it was. As I lay in bed, wide awake at 4 in the morning, eyes puffy from yet another fight which would end today, I realized that the least I can do is to be truthful to the person who tugged at my heartstrings with every word he spoke. I could not pretend. The decision was made.

I sat the whole afternoon blankly putting the pieces of the phone together which yet again I had thrown in frustration after another mute conversation which usually had me asking “Are you still there?”,only to hear a solitary “Yes”, my mind drafting and re-drafting the lines to say. Every now and then I’d feel like chickening out but the tear stains on my pillow-covers would firm my resolution again and I would frame them, mentally preparing for the day I hoped would never come.

So here I was. Single again. The first and second day I had to hide my phone in the cupboard fully dismantled to stop myself from calling him again and saying “I was being a fool”. I read ferociously lying sprawled on my bed, computer shut off. I went for long walks, listening to music and shutting off everything that had perspired between us in the last two days. The message beep tone would throw me off guard and I would find myself melting like marshmallow when I read his lines, laden with sadness and the shock. I did not change my tear-stained sheets that whole week.

But then days pass and you do recover. As your mind tries to draw that thin line between thinking about him and dwelling on his memories, reconcile with the present and drape a thin veil on everything sad and bad, you feel good. I felt nice about being totally honest and having no burden on my thoughts, no pretence. People spoke, word went around.Breakups usually generate the same heat as probably a volcanic eruption. A lot of explanations had to be given. Especially to the ones close to you, but they were more than supportive and patient to hear me out and give me the strength,cheer me up whenever I began to fall into that pit of dark memories again, hear me out inspite of it being midnight and me repeating few things over and over again. Indeed, I cannot be more in debt to all of them.

I am happy again, totally back to where I was. All the memories written on this blog bring back a trickle of warmth into my heart again. I have left this whole saga with a lot of tenderness and respect for him. There are no hard feelings or hatred. I am not averse to being in love again nor am I telling anyone to take away any harsh lessons from what happened to me. It was a phase, totally worth living and recollecting.

Afterall, Ive had the best deal. I have a treasure of the best memories, some of the best times I’ve ever had, all safe and stored in my heart, which will make me go on and wish him all the success and love that he can ever lay his hands on.

I tell you, its totally worth being in love. Im happy I tasted it!

And so we met…

The familiar ring tone beeped for a good two minutes before I darted towards it from my bed.

“Hey! I am here…at the gate. Will be there in 5 minutes”.

“Oh! ok…” and the line was cut.

I kept the phone down smiling. I could not believe. The day I had been waiting for was finally here. Still sleepy, I looked at the messy hair in my mirror and scrambled around to find the comb. I was very excited. So happy.

A missed call and two frantic minutes later which involved me dropping my keys and almost tripping on the stairs, I emerged from the hostel entrance, big smile across my face, my eyes scanning in every direction and heart racing. I looked ahead to find a group of boys in a white car, still searching for that familiar face. I looked sideways and felt my heartbeat quicken.

There he was. Clad in an almost drenched maroon shirt and wet jeans, his spectacles specked with droplets of water and a huge grin across his face. I was so overwhelmed with joy that I almost ran to him amidst curious eyes watching the proceedings. We just hugged each other very tightly. It had been three months. Three long months of separation and loneliness.

He sat down on the cement platforms along the sidewalks and looked at me. “I just want to see you”, was all he said. I looked at him and I wanted that moment to freeze. I could not help shying away. It felt so great to have someone you love back in front of you. All those moments where I missed him terribly, the faint “I miss you” on the phone, the occasions where all I wanted to do is walk silently hand-in-hand, the lunches and dinners we had cribbing about the food together, came flashing back. I ran my finger along his cheek and smiled. “Wipe your glasses, its wet”, was all I managed to say.

As we sat in the drizzle under one of the eatery’s canopy, I realized how much we actually missed each other. All the laughing, the silly jokes, the commenting on the people walking by, the squeezing hands, the small tiffs and fights made me realize what a phone or internet chat facility does not provide. I could not believe this was the person I had fought with many times over and often irritated.

I watched him eat unable to say anything. I just kept smiling almost like my jaws had permanently parted. My smile was there to stay.

It didn’t fade for the next four days. 🙂

Beep Beep

“…chal then, I have to go now”

“Oh…. ok”

“Bye”

“Bye..”

Click.

Beep beep. The familiar sound one hears after a line has been cut. I held the phone looking helplessly at the wall in front of me. Words of our conversation still hanging in mid-air almost like I could touch them. Memories of the last meeting still haunting every morning. The last bye, the last hug, the last time I got to see him in flesh and blood. Only to be replaced by digital signals and seldom interspersed with pictorial data being transferred.

Life goes on. The clock ticks away, the days bring with it new work, new adventures and experiences, but every time one gets a break from the fast pace of the activities, my mind goes straight back to him. His wry smile almost naughty at times, the sound of footsteps across the undulating cement, his metallic ancient digital watch, his habit of losing pens every other day, our discussions ranging from the most nonsensic to probably highly futuristic, our skipped dinners, paranthas at Kashi Dairy, numerous maggi plates, frequent blinding by the powerful headlight beams, our numerical analysis classes, the silent eating at the jhopdi watching the blue of the water juxtaposed against the orange setting sun with the wind ruffling our clothes, the last time he made me laugh over that joke on the phone, the trying out of new south indian dishes, the weird people we meet, my dog’s antics, the last topic of discussion, that last good bye…

It is funny how today a ten-digit number flashing on my mobile phone makes me so happy, the green dot next to this person’s name on a messenger list brings a smile to my face. How the anticipation of that familiar beep beep sound on the mobile makes you hurriedly unlock the phone almost doing it wrong many times in the hurry to see the message happens every single time.How I almost can’t wait to tell him about the funny thing or person I saw today or even discuss what I ate for lunch and the new discovery I made in the menu card. Ways of the heart are indeed very unexpected, although extremely fulfilling.

Long distance is tough. Very tough.

Strange Coincidences

It was her again. I could make out from the sea-green shirt worn over a faded blue jean vaguely in the moonlight shone on the library lawns. Her hair was tied in her usual pony-tail,falling just over her shoulders. She was standing with some boys, each with a guitar hanging over their shoulders. He was standing next to me drinking a soft-drink and looking at her. We exchanged smiles. We saw her… again !

Some people one keeps bumping into more than others. As we sat on the edge of one of the walkways leading to the building, drenched in darkness we made a funny list of all the people we met almost as frequently as we met each other. They were ominously present, even in the weirdest of circumstances. Some people who were integral part of the time we spent together. It was impossible to explain what she was doing at the table next to us on one week-day evening at the beach shack. Or worse, as we sat in the institute cafeteria on one hot sunny afternoon. How is it that she is always present or walking past us even when we meet to give each other some notes at midday! At the weirdest of times, even when it is pouring and we are running for some shelter, we do get to see her countenance staring at us from some distance away. I am sure she has similar ideas about our presence everywhere.

The other person was a teacher. Someone we always met at the labourer’s canteen some distance away from the hostels. Fondly called the J, it was a frequent haunt for all who longed to break away from the mundane and often inedible mess food. Surprisingly, every visit of ours would conclude by that familiar face smiling at us, zipping past us on the uneven road leading up to the eatery. Anytime, be it the unusual 7 am breakfasts on a sunday or the tea-break between two exams at eleven in the mornings. Anytime, he is always there. I dont know what he probably thinks of us. Frankly, I dont bother.

Other things, albeit trivial have also been steadily with us. Be it the nasty mosquitoes who haunt us and often make us have our conversations in the intervals we get from scratching ourselves or even trying in vain to trap a few of them flying. Claps often are intermittent in our conversations with the occasional “Ouch!” or ” May they rot in hell!” springing out of nowhere.

His pockets are another thing. True to the geeky-bloodline, a pen drive will always be there in his cargos. Else, they accomodate even the mosquito-repellent creams. Exam days will find his pockets full of calculators or their covers, some pen or even question and answer papers. The phone will not stop ringing in my presence almost like i am a signal tower bringing connectivity to the otherwise parched instrument. It will fall eerily quiet post eleven thirty though.

One dark night close to exams when the campus was quiet and deviod of activity, we stood on a desolate road, looking at some constellations and trying to remember if they were summer or winter. Footsteps distracted our gaze and we looked at the two figures walking towards us at a distance.

“Is that her?”

“Yeah…”

“Oh my God”

“Hahahahaaaa…”