I told you I'm a dreamer and then I dropped hints again and again here and there. Repeatedly. Yet, all you can talk about is people People who wronged you or didn't. People in politics, business and bureaucracy basking away in second-had success and delving into second-had failures You talk about boundaries when my head is limitless I suggest you hammer nails around my head and build a fence and see if that might conform me into what you want me to become. Don't tell me about work that is uninspired and safe like docu-men-tation and how you do it for 60 hours a week. It tires me. It tires me how You talk about money Like it can buy culture or class. It tires me when you recite what you hear on one idiot box and scan on another- never pausing to read between the lines Yet, I envy you. I envy you for your depth as well as outwardness towards things, yes, things that I feel nothing towards and your stoicism towards subjects that keep me sane. I envy how effortlessly you stay afloat while I am suffering and struggling I wonder where are your layers? or are you as one dimensional as what meets the eyes? I dont know what am I more afraid of. I dare you, for once- Tell me about your deepest, darkest secrets, fears and fantasies and watch me not flinch. I promise I will not look away I will not blink and hear me out just once - For I am here to find out if you can return the courtesy. Can you for once be real? and not what they are telling you to be. For once, can you tell me when was the last time you felt alive.
I, have a confession to make The truth is I like being the other woman. Yes, The One Hated by all But revered by One I like the questioning eyes that follow me when I step out their gaze like a red carpet rolled out right in front of me to strut over. I like the judgement bestowed upon me from the moral high horse The scoff, in their tone. The smirk, on their lips. The surprise, in their innocent eyes. The freedom. Ah, the freedom! Maybe, I want you Maybe, I want you too. And why not? I like driving’em crazy. Feet on the accelerator, The car's gonna spin off. I like knowing We are headed to this Beautiful town called ‘no-where-land’ Where we make no promises hence, dispense no misery. But there’s adrenaline and ecstasy and love As selfless as promoted in the archetypal world. I like keeping secrets And also being one. I am the secret, I am the truth, I am the sin and The forbidden fruit. I like pulling the strings I like being worshipped And I like the taboo I am the taboo. I am the taboo, Yet you are drawn Like moth to a flame - Unable to retract what you started. Even if you wanted to. But don't take me Otherwise. After all, It was you who started with “Everything is fair In love and war” And when we meet In the folds of midnight, When the world drowns in darkness- It's a dance of both.
this one is an ode
to the love lost
to the world
in which I myself am lost
the world that lured us
with other fantasies
and we got sold to what seemed to be best.
But must I say that
appearances my darling,
can be a fraud
and life a witch
only revealing as much as it wants
till one day,
it’s too late.
To the love lost
to the world.
the world as a stage
on which we’ll never bow together
for our acts are different.
the world as a circus
but we will never perform together
we will walk this life
alone or worse, with someone else.
This one is an ode
For the museums we will never visit
the gardens we would never stroll
the roads we will never kiss on
the mountains we will not take on
An ode to the poems
i will not send to you
the love songs I will not
sing for you
to the nights
i will not come back home to you
the days i will not spend with you
this one is an ode to
the prayers i will not say for you
and eventually will come the days
i will not think of you
and apart we will drift
it all happened for the best.
as if beggars are choosers
My soul, darling, feels cold
it’s too scared to be touched
by anyone else
and the heart doesn’t trust itself-
it’s never been this unsure
for the only thing it was sure about
was you. was us.
but oh, quite a joke.
the heart, darling, is still not listening
to the silence that came
with the absence of you
it’s being silly darling-
stubborn as a child
who thinks crying will get it what it wants
but life is a strict teacher
and soon it will learn
this teacher rewards the smartest. the bravest.
heart is a slow learner, darling.
but i wonder- does it not break your heart-
to go on without me?
it looks as if it doesn’t.
It clearly, doesn’t
because you darling don’t rest till you get what you want.
why does it break mine?
does it not break your heart
to embark on this journey of life without me?
to not celebrate your victories with me
and to not have my shoulder to cry on.
none of this-
doesn’t matter to you
doesn’t render you sleepless
doesn’t make your insides twist
then i might as well
prepare for this journey alone.
this one is an ode
to the future we do not hold.
Every morning I wake up with a burden of million tons weighing me down, immobilizing me from leaving my bed. If I could put a finger on where it weighs the heaviest, I would point to my chest somewhere close to the left shoulder. I bury my head into the pillow waiting for this feeling to pass because succumbing to it is a trap. You cannot surrender for if you surrender, it sucks you in and before you know, you are standing midst a labyrinth of madness. You are spiraling, circling and nothing makes sense. It’s a place untouched by a ray of light. I know the drill to escape these traps. I created it. I give myself a minute for the haze to lift up and the reality to sink in after which, I get up and walk towards the bathroom to splash my face with cold water, hence triggering the domino of routine.
But seldom. I do wonder if there will come a morning I will wake up to, feeling not this way. Any other way but not this. Some days I do get lucky when I am in a hurry and my brain gets no time to think. In a hurry to reach somewhere, be someplace. I hurry as if things depend upon this thing that I am hurrying so much about and for a moment I do feel like it’s all not so bad. My heart sometimes, feels light as a kite. I smile an untainted smile like nothing heart retching ever occurred to me.
Conversations, sceneries and events also play a role to keep me momentarily distracted. But life passes somewhere between these brief moments. Doesn’t it? And one day, maybe there will be peace, unperturbed by any of my yearnings. Undistorted by pain. I am willing to make peace with peace brought upon by monotony. But I know there will come the night, as constant as it is, followed by the morning and yet again, the feeling will return, tiptoeing like the moonlight behind the clouds and it will begin all over again: I will wait for my phone to ring. I will envy anyone who has been fortunate enough to be loved. I will yet again wish I hadn’t woken up. But I also know that I will find a way to dodge this familiar trepidation somewhere between my drill and distractions.
Chapter 4 – Surrealism
Café Viena was bustling with people and activity which gave Amelia Buch more choice of subjects to draw and observe. She would rise with the sun at five am to go for a run along the Mediterranean Sea and would later cook breakfast for herself that mainly comprised of toast and omelette on all seven days a week. She would be ready just in time for her daily tours after which she would go to Viena to work on her thesis. She had set short term and long term checkpoints for her thesis to track progress and had targeted to finish it within a month after which, she had decided post much consideration that it was time to move to Paris to complete its final leg. On alternate days, she had arranged to take Spanish lessons from Africa in exchange of English lessons that she gave her. She would return home tired and exhausted mostly just to sleep ensuring to give herself not much time to think. Why think when you can act and accomplish? She would occasionally drop by the studio to catch up with the band who were busy preparing for their upcoming multi-city tour. Amelia was relieved this would give her some time to reconsider her feelings that she believed, she had delusionally developed towards Diego. She felt utterly silly for deciding to admit her feelings to him and then him taking off to see his ex-wife the very same day. A sign, she thought, only a fool would ignore.
But today she would face Diego for the first time since he had left for Seville. It was Nicholas’ birthday and there was a party at the studio At around eight pm, Amelia and Africa reached the studio where everybody including Nicholas’ family and friends had already gathered. The studio looked different decorated in fairy lights and white balloons, matching the white studio walls.
It was almost midnight before everyone went back home leaving just the band members, Amelia and Africa. Clarence had passed out on the couch while Matteo was helping Africa in cleaning up the studio. Diego went outside to sit on the porch which was dimly lit by the lights escaping through the studio’s door and windows. The night was dark and across the lawn on the other side of the road hung a huge billboard of a cement commercial with a funny tag line. Diego smiled.
“What’s so funny?” Amelia asked as she sat next to him.
“You would know if you could read Spanish.”
“Long time.” He said looking at Amelia.
“Indeed. How was Seville?”
“Successful…if I must say. It’s over now. The divorce papers have been signed. I am a free man.” Said Diego feigning enthusiasm.
Amelia recognized a similar somberness in his eyes, the one she had first seen the time they had had their first conversation outside Marty’s. A pang of guilt overcame her as she realized all through she had been thinking only about herself, oblivious to his problems. They both sat quietly looking at the bill board, not speaking anything.
“Is this is your diary where you write your compositions?” Amelia continued as she reached out for a ragged brown diary sitting next to him.
“How long have you had it, it looks really torn.”
“Almost two years now. I always buy the same journal when one runs out, makes me feel as if the sanctity has remained intact.”
Amelia smiled. “So this contains all the songs that you wrote in past two years?”
“Most.” He looked at her going through the diary, “In fact, there is something I wrote about you.”
Amelia looked at him surprised but his face was expressionless as if he had said the most natural thing in the world.
“If it’s about me, then I deserve to hear it.” She said.
“Well, if you must.”
“Yes of course, nobody ever wrote me a song. It’s good to be somebody else’s muse for a change”
He took a one long glance at her and began:
“Thought that I stood
Made in time
Been there, done that
A man past his prime
But then came along you
And I was hit
By a wave of surprise
For they said there was more
To the air we breathe
But I didn’t know
that there existed
A scent so sweet
I didn’t know
There was a void
as old as me
But then came along
You, oh Amelia,
and life itself
rained over me
and now I am alive
more than ever
more than life
itself could be
For you are a rainbow
With all shades of life
Amelia looked at him both surprised and confused. Does this mean what I think it means? A million question crossed her mind. Why doesn’t it feel so great?
“It’s lovely.” She said, “Could you please read it again?” Diego did without asking any questions. He could almost sense her confusion and did not rush her to respond. His face radiated composure as if it was only important to tell.
“I didn’t know I inspired you like that.” She finally said.
“Everything about you inspires me. I think it’s very brave of you to travel by yourself. You are so young and look at you…” he trailed off.
“How long did it take you to write this?”
“I don’t know. 15 minutes.”
“15 minutes?” Amelia echoed. “That’s it?”
“Well, what can I say? Strong was my inspiration.”
“And when did you write this?”
“It’s been a while. A month maybe. Look, I am sorry if you think this is inappropriate…”
“That was a lovely poem, Diego. Loveliest things anyone ever said to me…in years.”
“I am glad you liked it.” said Diego.
“I am leaving for Paris in a month… maybe.” Amelia said.
“Oh, is it? You never told.”
“Well, how can my thesis on Picasso be actually complete until I cover France.” She smiled.
Diego felt uneasy. He wondered if this was in reaction to his poem. He knew something remained unsaid. Her lips were talking but her words were empty.
“It’s not you.” Amelia said almost reading his mind.
“So what’s the plan?”
“The plan is to go home, sleep. Wake up tomorrow morning, go for a run, go for the tour, study, etc.”
“That is an excellent plan. But seriously, what’s the plan?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I will study further or I will follow my ancestral footsteps.”
“Had enough of Spain?”
Amelia smiled. “Can I just say that I felt at peace after a very long time. I felt…” Amelia paused to light a cigarette, “hopeful. And it’s been all because of you and the beautiful family I found in you guys.
They sat there in silence and shared a cigarette looking into vast nothingness that spread forth their eyes. Both united by pain they had quietly suffered but never shared.
“You gave me a hope too.” Diego added after a while. “And this poem that I wrote about you, is in itself a sign of that. I wrote something after…almost a year, something I truly felt other than indifference. So, thank you. You should know that you will always have a home here.”
Amelia leaned forward to kiss Diego on his cheek.
“Please don’t slit your wrists when I leave next month.” Amelia teased.
“I’ll see what I can do.”
“Do you think I will ever make big as an artist?”
“Yes…you know. Successful?”
“That depends upon what your definition of success is.”
“You know…like Picasso.” Amelia said carefully.
“Do you think Picasso drew because he wanted to be successful?”
“Hah! I doubt.”
“Tell me, would you continue to keep drawing if I told you that you will never be a successful artist?”
“Yes I will.’
“Would you continue to keep drawing if only five people came to visit your exhibits including Africa that is. I am not making any promises though.”
“Yes I would. Amelia chuckled.”
“Would you keep drawing if you didn’t have to?”
“I don’t think see that ever happening but yes, I would.”
“Would you draw if there was no hope and would you draw honestly?”
“What else would I do?”
“Well may be, just maybe, you might actually be “successful” someday. Artists, my love, are too consumed to choose. They do whatever they do because there is nothing else they are able to do. And I don’t know if you will be successful, but you will definitely be happy. The joy of creation is unparalleled.”
“I must admit that coming here, really helped me. I think my Blue period might finally be over.”
“Yes. Picasso’s work has been broadly divided into: Early works, like when he was a child and was doodling, the Blue period- that was when he was so poor and his best friend died that all his painting looked blue and sad, the Rose period- that was when he moved, eh, wait for it…Paris!, Cubism you already know. Classicism, Surrealism. I could explain-“
“When was your blue period? Where was I?”
“Oh it was before I moved to Spain. Nothing important.” Amelia said dismissively.
“Amelia, you can talk to me.”
“It’s a story in itself.”
Chapter 5 – The Blue Period
Amelia vividly remembered the first day at the university where she had been wait-listed for more than two months for the Fine Arts course and the anticipation of making the cut had gnawed at her at every waking second. It was while standing in a queue in the Admissions office, she had noticed Neal for the very first time. A guy in baggy blue jeans and a plain white t-shirt standing ahead of her. Amelia only saw his back for first ten minutes until he turned around a couple of times. He had not shaved in days and his dark brown hair were wildly unkempt. His face looked placid in contrast to his shabby appearance while he skimmed through a book titled “Quantum Mechanics”. He was unperturbed by ongoing conversations and the occasional bursts of laughter in a room packed with freshers, as if an invisible wall separated him from the inessential, distinguishing him from everyone else. He would lift his eyes every now and then to see how far along the queue had moved, his hazel eyes in contrast with his dark brown hair.
Amelia did not see him until next two months in the library where he was making notes from a number of books carefully laid down in front of him on the table. His gaze was intense like that of an observer and betrayed his otherwise empty face. Amelia flushed with embarrassment when he suddenly looked up, meeting her in the eye as if he knew all along that he was being watched. It was only after a few minutes that Amelia looked at him again to see if he was still looking and to her astoundment, he was not just looking but also, grinning openly. Amelia’s heart skipped a beat for the first time ever in almost two decades. She knew it was a beginning of an era.
Getting to know Neal was an experience. He came from a middle class family where his father was a high school Maths teacher and his mother was a nurse in a local hospital. He was the third youngest amongst his four siblings comprising of two older brothers and a younger sister. As a child Neal learned the value of money and hardships that came with the absence of it. He witnessed his parents work extra shifts to ensure private education for all their children. As a child he vowed to be rich when he grew up and provide his parents with every luxury the world had to offer. By late teens he had realized that the only way to earn some real money was to become a businessman and he couldn’t wait to finish his education to become one. Every morning he woke up to The Financial Times and The Economist and never missed a class.
He admired Amelia for her kindness and compassion and would often tell her about his dreams as if they were already true. He told her how he would become an industrialist one day and she would tell him how she would own an art gallery. He would talk in facts and she would talk in poetry and they would both lay consumed in each other’s vastness. She was an idealist while he was pragmatic and they both knew how much they needed each-other to complete the spectrum. They were like lost pieces of a puzzle. The more they appreciated each other’s mind, the more they desired for each other’s bodies. They would travel across cities together, at times indulging in inebriated lunacies and on other times just being silently by each other’s side, reading their own books, listening to their own music. On other times, they would just walk by the beach holding hands, taking a dip in the ocean. Occasionally they would argue but one of them would always concede sooner or later. The price of separation was too high to pay in a life this short.
It was in an evening of their third summer together that a nineteen year old Amelia walked into her hostel room, after a hectic day of classes to find her otherwise shabby room to be decorated with candles and fairy lights. In the middle of the room was Neal, down on a knee. Oh my god! He is going to propose!
“Amelia, I know life is full of uncertainties and as we grow older, it is only going to get tougher. But if there is anything I am certain about, then it is you. I don’t know what future holds and but I am certain that I can go through anything as long as I am with you. I am certain that I cannot go on without you and believe you me, I have tried. I am certain that life will be beautiful with you. And so I want to celebrate my love for you and let the whole world know how proud I am of us. Would you spend your life to me? Amelia Buch, will you please marry me?”
“Bloody hell, yes, yes and a thousand times yes! Please tell me I am not dreaming.” Amelia exclaimed as she threw herself into his arms. Amelia couldn’t believe that love had finally found its way to her. That night she lay in bed, cuddled with Neal, beaming at the ring. The ring wasn’t gold or diamond. It was probably aluminium but she couldn’t care less. She giggled as she said out loud, “hello, fi-an-cé” and they kissed for the hundredth time. Amelia knew that the ring was a promise of commitment and she knew the value of one. Even her own parents couldn’t make one to her when it seemed to come naturally to all the others in the world.
Amelia carefully examined her surroundings. She wanted to remember every detail when she tells this story her children years later. She remembered the light pink floral curtains. The dim lights. The white window panes. The light blue cotton sheets sprawling carelessly across the bed. Her roommates’ Black Sabbath posters on the wall. The tilted photo frame on the bookshelf with a photograph of Neal, Grandma Lily and her from her previous birthday standing next to the only picture she had of her parents from their wedding day.
Must they be still together, mom and dad? Amelia knew of her parents only through her grandmother who had told her that her parents were travelers. Her mother had left for a fourteen day trip when she was twenty but had returned only a year later to inform that she will be travelling for the rest of her life. Her mother had blonde hair and sea green eyes on a heart shaped face, it was a face that must have left a string of broken hearts. It was while travelling to India that she had met her father and had been instantly smitten by his sun baked complexion and stout muscled built. Mother wanted to travel through India and father wanted to leave for Europe so they had both decided to take turns. First, her father showed her mother the gigantic Himalayas, and the dry Thar, the valleys of Kashmir, the royal palaces of Jaipur and the beaches along Indian Ocean coastline. And then it was her mother’s turn to show him the colors of Europe that shaped the history of entire world. Somewhere between the two, Amelia Buch was created and that was when her parents got briefly married somewhere over the Atlantic in a cheap ferry. How drunk they must have been, she thought. Her mother had dropped her off at her grandma’s house, promising to come back once she had run a few errands in Japan. But she never did. Never called and never turned up. What was in Japan though? Amelia wondered.
She looked at the photo frame and then looked at Neal who was casually lying next to her. She smiled. It was a moment of absolute bliss. It’s all too good to be true, she thought.
Amelia and Neal had moved in together in a small one bedroom apartment. Neal had joined as an intern at one of the top corporate firms and Amelia had been taken by a local artist for shadowing in central London. It was only five months later when she was looking at the calendar to pick a date that it struck her that she might have missed her period. She sat there baffled to see if there was a discrepancy but in her heart she knew she had never missed a date. Not once. But today she was late by twenty days. Even the thought of missing her period, let alone getting pregnant had never occurred to her as she had never missed a pill. There was even a reminder in her phone for every night at ten pm. Dredgedly she dragged herself to a pharmacy and got five pregnancy test kits. On her way back home, while sitting in the bus, she stared at the cover of the kit, on which a blond white girl smiled gaily as her stick reflected a positive sign. The blonde girl was happy about being positively pregnant. The sheer irony of it mocked at her. She decided against telling Neal yet, in case it was a false alarm. Hours later, sitting on the bathroom floor, holding a stick, Amelia felt nauseous. All five sticks surrounding her reflected a positive. She couldn’t bring herself to walk out the door and tell Neal about the…baby, she thought. There’s going to be a baby inside of me. She knew she wasn’t ready for this. There is no job, no financial security and no matrimonial bond yet. It was almost thirty minutes later that she heard a knock on the bathroom door. “Babe, are you in there?”
“Are you okay? It’s been a while.”
Amelia looked flushed when she opened the door. She walked up to Neal who was listlessly changing channels on the television. Neal noticed that she was drenched in sweat. Before he could ask any questions, she handed him the pregnancy stick.
Neal looked at the stick for a good one minute. Amelia could see his eyebrows raise and knit in confusion.
“But this is not possible…just not possible.” He said without conviction. “How’s this possible? You were on the pill.”
“I know, oh baby, don’t worry… we will take care of it.”
In that moment Amelia felt as if somebody had burst her bubble. “Take care of it?” She echoed. “It could be a him or a her. There is no it. We created it.” She said, her eyes blazing with betrayal. She couldn’t believe that Neal had referred to their child as an object who could be taken care of.
“Yes, I mean…you know what I mean.”
“I don’t think I know what you mean. Look, we cannot waste any more time. This needs to be meticulously planned. We need to pick the next date. How about Sunday? And get married as soon as we can so that we can begin getting ready for the baby. I know it’s going to be really tough but I could use my savings and prepare for the baby. We could get married somewhere cheap and save the marriage fund for the baby…”
All Neal could here was “the baby”. He could see Amelia talk passionately for about next ten minutes but he didn’t hear a word.
“Yes…yes…of course.” He said at the end of it.
“Should I call grandma?”
“Let’s wait until tomorrow. Let’s go and see a doctor first. One could never trust these sticks.” He calmed her down and put her to bed. Exhausted from all the weeping, Amelia drifted off to sleep while Neal lay wide awake.
Neal wondered what he is going to tell his parents who expected him to join one of the Ivy League colleges. He felt like his head would explode. Next morning, he woke up and got ready for the doctor’s visit even before Amelia woke up. He prepared breakfast and woke up Amelia who ate in silence. The visit to the doctor was a quiet one and even quieter on the way back once their biggest fears were confirmed. He started massaging his forehead with his fingers not knowing how to say what he really wanted to say.
“Baby, I have been thinking a lot about this and I don’t think that the timing is right. I mean we haven’t even started our career yet and how are we going to look after a baby? It’s expensive you know, education, medical, and so on and we are just twenty, we have all our life to make babies and we will. I promise you but not now…please. And think about all our plans of accomplishing things together, travelling together? Prioritizing our career? Please, we are not ready for this.”
“but it’s our baby, Neal? We can’t run away from this and I know we can do this together. I was scared too and I thought about it. Really thought about it. I even googled it and this situation is somewhat similar to cold feet but believe me, we will figure this out. We will love this thing more than we ever loved anything.”
“Do you seriously believe in all these things after what your parents did to you?,” there was mockery and anguish in his tone.
“Are you suggesting that I get an abortion?”
Neal nodded, his lips pressed in a straight line. “You just need to take a medicine.”
“Just a medicine? Is that right?”
“At least sleep over it?”
“I think you should leave.”
“Leave? This is our home. Where should I leave for?”
“I don’t know.” Amelia’s snapped.
“Are you sure you want to keep the baby and there’s nothing I can do to change your mind?”
“Bloody hell Neal! Yes I am keeping the baby. You can get lost if that’s what you want to do.” Her eyes were brimming with tears as she stormed out of the room into her bedroom.
In the morning she woke to an empty house and realized that Neal had left. She tried calling him but he didn’t pick up the phone and didn’t reply to her messages. It was on the fifth day that Amelia realized that he probably will never come back. She lay in her bed restless, feeling anxious. She didn’t tell her grandma or her college friends that Neal had left without a word. She didn’t have courage to tell anyone that she had loved a man who didn’t have courage for responsibility, a man who had left her at her worst. A man who had abandoned her and their unborn child. Amelia didn’t leave her bed for next fifteen days. She couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep and couldn’t change. She never left her home, in case Neal came and always charged her phone in case Neal called. She felt incapable of even crying anymore. It was only when she had decided that things could not get any worse that a month later she woke up in the middle of the night, confused and deranged. Did I get my period?
Chapter 6 – Classicism
Diego looked at her, his expressions soft. They both sat in silence. Diego wanted to give her a hug but he knew she was too strong to be pitied. Amelia understood his silence and was relieved that she didn’t break down, neither were her eyes moist when she finished talking. Instead she felt lighter. It felt like a story from a hundred years ago. None of the characters from this story were around. She smiled at irony of all of it. She wondered where everyone was? What were they doing in this very moment while she was looking at the Spanish sky with a full moon? Were they looking at the same moon or were they looking at the sun? No one could tell.
“Neal was a first class coward and I am not saying this to make you feel better.” Diego finally said.
“He was perhaps a lapse of judgement, now that I look back.” Amelia said nostalgically. “Sometimes I do wonder what the child would have been like. What would I have named it? Would it have been a boy like him or a girl like me with dark locks of hair and Neal’s dark brown eyes?”
“Don’t go there.” Diego said as he held her hand.
“Sometimes I also wonder if I subconsciously killed my own baby. Not willing to face another living reminder of yet another failed relationship for the rest of my life. I wonder if I had been selfish all this while, playing a victim while actually being a perpetrator. You see…I denied myself food when it was someone else who needed it more than me. I did to my child what my parents had done to me. Abandoned it. Selfishness must be a genetic trait.” She said dryly in a flat tone.
“Do you hate your parents?”
“Well. Let’s see. I definitely missed them around the parent teacher meetings and birthdays and sometimes Christmas and I still think about them every day. I wonder if they aged gracefully or if my mother became fat and if father became bald. I wonder if I have step brothers or sisters. I wonder if they wonder I was a mistake. I wonder, if they are even around. I miss them. Sure. But then I also know of a friend whose parents abandoned him and he was raised by his uncle and aunt who were really bad people. His aunt used to burn him and abuse him and what not. They didn’t send him to school for a very long time and said really mean things to him, so the poor guy is still very shaky and sensitive. I think I got lucky to be raised by my grandma who is so smart and intelligent. We both love each other so much. I think she raised me better that anyone ever could. I was home-schooled till thirteen which I loved by the way. But no, I don’t hate my parents because honestly… I don’t really know what it is it like to have parents and so I don’t miss it in that way. I know having parents is mostly about being unconditionally loved and I was fortunate enough to be loved by my grandma. Plus what’s wrong in being selfish? Aren’t we all thinking about ourselves first? Even those who say we love “unconditionally” do it because it kind of makes them feel like a bigger person or makes them feel good about themselves. I don’t hate my parents. I know they must be a little guilty and they definitely are cowards but… what can I say? Right now, as selfish as that sounds, I am happy that I didn’t have my baby. No, I don’t hate my parents.”
“Can I tell you I had a crush on you for a brief moment? And I was slightly disappointed when you just left for Seville. All those feelings came back and I felt like, another man I loved has left the town. Déjà vu.” Amelia continued.
“I would never leave you,” said Diego his eyes burning with sincerity.
“We would never know.”
“You are the only women, if I may say, I really liked after a long long time. After my wife left me, I thought this is it. This is the end, I will never feel this way again. But thank god for you and you have inspired me in so many ways and after today, everything has changed. Thank you for telling me everything”
“How drunk are we to talk about life and matters of heart? Think we should call it a night?”
“It’s almost sunrise.” Diego nodded.
Amelia rose and they both hugged each other. They went inside the studio where the others were sleeping. Amelia packed her stuff and headed towards the door.
“Should I walk you back home?” Diego asked.
“I think I’ll just walk back on my own.”
Diego nodded and planted a kiss on her forehead.
“Will you forgive me, if I never come back?”
“I could never be angry with you.”
Dedicated to my late grand parents – nani-nanu, dadi-baba, who I know shine bright with the stars.
You can read Amelia- Part I here.
“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth. – Pablo Picasso”.
On a sunny October morning, Amelia fathomed the depth of a graffiti inscribed on a wall of a buzzing La Rambla street. Though it had been a while since she had moved to Barcelona, Spain, the artistic aura of the city still captivated her. Appeased with herself, Amelia smiled knowing that she had made the right decision.
She looked at her watch and it was fifteen minutes to twelve pm. She opened up a big red umbrella that read ‘‘Amigo Tour Agency” and wore her badge around her neck that spelled out her name in black bold letters, big enough for anyone to recognize from a distance. Her black hair floated in the soft breeze and her luminous olive complexion reflected the sun’s light. Standing tall at 5’8 in brown khakis and a red polo, she was hard to miss.
In next few minutes, she was approached by a middle-aged English couple, “Hi, are you from the tour agency? We are here for the walking tour.”
“Of course” Amelia flashed her best smile as she diverted her attention from the graffiti, “Let’s wait for another 10 minutes so that everybody’s here.”
A group of enthusiastic tourists soon began to swarm around her. At exactly twelve pm, she gathered her audience as she cleared her throat to recite the same speech that she had been reciting every day for past six months.
“Hello everyone, I am Amelia Buch and I welcome you all to the walking tour by Amigo tour agency. Today, I’ll take you through some of the best works in the history of architecture by the legendary Antoni Gaudí i Corne also known as just Gaudi in… English language. Spanish speakers can join my friend José in that circle.” She pointed across the road where another group of people stood with their backs showing. She paused for a smile as a few people left. “Okay, so that’s 4 less.” She resumed. “For those of you who are here today because they didn’t have anything better to do this afternoon, rest assured that you have made the right decision because Gaudian architecture is the essence of this beautiful city of Catalonia and without this experience your trip remains INCOMPLETE.
To give a brief introduction about myself. I am from England and I am half-British, half-Indian. I decided to take a gap year after university and come to Barcelona for a month-long vacation. Well, this was about a year back.” Some people in the group chuckled. “I would say I am still discovering this city and it amazes me how much it has to offer, including the sun which you barely see in England. I love my job as I get to meet people like yourself from across the globe on an EVERYDAY basis! How cool is that.
That’s pretty much all about me. Now let’s hear your names and country. How about we start from this end of the circle?”
Over the next four hours, Amelia took her tourists through Palau Güell, Plaça Reial, Block of Discord, Casa Batlló, Passeig de Gràcia, La Pedrera and Sagrada Familia, saving the best for the last. At the end of the tour, the tourists often tipped her generously for her accuracy of facts and her energy that she would continue to maintain throughout.
After the tour was over, Amelia would stop by café Viena for lunch, usually accompanied by some of the people from the tour. She had now become a regular at this café which was a cozy little restaurant near Sagarda Familia. The staff treated her warmly and the owner Javier was a heavyset man in his early fifties with curly locks of black hair. Javier never charged Amelia for food as she always brought new customers through her tourists.
Everyday, Amelia would sit at the same spot in café Viena which was a quiet corner by the window. Now a routine, she would first order her espresso and then count the tip she had received for the day. Then she would order ‘today’s special’ for lunch. Sometimes her quiet routine would be interrupted by over-zealous tourists who would ask for recommendations for places to see, food to eat and clubs to go to. Amelia always answered patiently to all the questions for she related to being a foreigner in a new city. She remembered what it was like when she had just moved to Barcelona. She didn’t speak the language and was completely clueless about where to begin but the locals had helped her figure out everything, from an accommodation to a job and she felt like she owed a lot to this city especially after everything she had been through.
After she finished her lunch, she would either read a book or draw sketches of people who stopped by the café for a coffee or a drink. She found it absolutely intriguing the variety of people who visited the café on an everyday basis from across the world. It seemed almost orchestrated how strangers in strange clothes with strange accents would blend in. Strangers that would describe the city with brand new perspectives and enthusiasm towards things that had been constant in the Catalonian streets for hundreds of years. Strangers who walked out as friends and lovers.
At the end of the day, Amelia would walk back to her apartment which was in Carrer de Còrsega, a place she had discovered with Javier’s assistance and was a fifteen minutes’ walk from the Viena. She had rented a tiny studio apartment on the 3rd floor of a private building. The owner was an amicable old woman named Mariana who lived on the first floor.
Amelia had decorated her apartment with posters of artworks by Dali, Degas, Picasso, Goya, da Vinci, Van Gogh and Rembrandt. She had studied 20th century arts during her under graduate program in London and had been especially taken by the works of Pablo Picasso. She appreciated the modern artist’s talent, struggles, spirit and his attitude towards life but more than anything she admired his display of boundless uninhibited imagination. There was no apprehensions in venturing. Though ages apart, he inspired her in ways and it was this inspiration that prompted her to write a thesis on him. She believed that researching about him might throw some light on her own self as an artist. It was then she had decided to move to Spain, Picasso’s birth place.
At exactly eight pm, she would call her grandma who lived in Birmingham to tell her all about her day. It had been a ritual for past six years, since the day Amelia had moved out from her home to the university hostel. There had been a brief period of time when she resented calling her grandma everyday but over time she had realized that through every thick and thin, this was the only thing that had remained constant in time – a phone call to her grandma at eight PM and now it had become a habit ingrained so deep that her mental alarm triggered off naturally no matter how busy she was or in which corner of the world she was.
Chapter 2 – The Rendezvous
One Saturday afternoon, Amelia noticed a poster of a band performance outside café Viena , when she reached their after finishing her tour. She approached Javier who didn’t notice her coming as his eyes were glued to the television screen showing Barcelona vs Valencia and the latter was making the former sweat. Javier almost looked cross.
‘Isn’t 25 euros a lot to see some random band? I could see Imagine Dragons for 30 pounds in London. I haven’t even heard of these guys.’ Amelia said as she sat on the chair next to Javier.
“Ah…not you Amelia. You don’t judge music by cover. And why you worry? We no charge you. Plus these guys play good music. Even English music.” Javier for the first time removed his eyes from the screen to give Amelia a quick friendly wink.
“English music in Spain. Jackpot. And by the way, it is a book by its cover.”
Later that night, Amelia reach Viena 20 minutes before the performance was to begin. The stage was being set up and she observed that people from all age groups had come to see the performance. The Viena was buzzing with couples, friends and families and all seemed to be animatedly chatting. A few minute later, the band members walked up to the stage.
The band opened with a subtle ‘Stand by me’ by Ben E. King and progressed to ‘Billie Jean’ by Michael Jackson. In no time, the people were singing along and by the end of an hour-long performance that was concluded ‘Crazy’ by Gnarls Barkley, a lot of people were dancing including Amelia herself, who was utterly thrilled. The ‘once more’ chant resonated so loud in the jam-packed café that the band had to return for one last song after which the lights were turned on and everyone had risen to give a standing ovation.
Amelia noticed that Clarence, the lead singer, was standing at the bar surrounded by people who wanted to congratulate him for their extraordinary performance. He was a colored man in his mid-forties who got freckles around his eyes when he smiled. Unable to contain herself, Amelia approached him herself when the other fans had left.
“I think you are crazzzyyy.” Amelia sang the last song from their gig as she approached Clarence.
“Thank you for coming today.” Clarence replied smiling eye to eye. He was still soaked in sweat after all the jumping and singling on the stage.
“Oh well, thank youu for performing today. The last one and a half hour was entrancing. Bewitching. Captivating. I can keep on talking. I can’t believe I never saw you guys before!”
Clarence laughed “Thank you so much love. We perform every Thursday at Jamboree. You must be new here”
“Well, I have been here for a year now though I must admit that today feels like a ‘Eureka’ moment.”
“haha, Thank you. Would you like a beer?
“Ya sure.” Clarence signaled the bartender for two beers. They had been joined by other fans who wanted to thank Clarence for the great performance.
“What’s a pretty girl like you doin alone here?” Clarence asked when others had left and it was just the two of them.
“Well…” Amelia blushed at the compliment. “The pretty girl is on a break from the pretty boys.” Amelia stated matter-of-factly.
“Pretty boys are the worse.” Clarence responded looking almost nostalgic. “Do you wanna join the gang for the afterparty? We usually go to Marty’s after the performance. It’s round the corner.”
“Marty’s? I may have been there once or twice. It’s so overpriced and shady, I never understand why people go there”. Amelia looked unimpressed.
“I see. Marty is my boyfriend so we always chill at his restaurant after the gig.” Clarence grinned.
“Oh. Oh? I am so sorry. I may have confused it with some other restaurant. Let’s go there!” Amelia replied feeling embarrassed.
“Haha, don’t worry. It’s fine. Marty is a ripper. I have to pack my guitar first”
Clarence and Amelia went to the green room where Amelia finished her beer as Clarence packed his guitar after which they left for Marty’s. It was quarter after midnight and the streets were deserted. The night was cold and Amelia reprimanded herself for not carrying a warmer jacket. After a ten minutes’ walk, Clarence and Amelia reached ‘Marty’s’ where the rest of band members were drinking and chatting. The lights were dim and yellow. The ambience matched the lights.
“There’s my hero, muchachos” Marty cheered when Clarence entered the restaurant and everyone clapped. Clarence blushed and greeted Marty with a kiss. He later introduced Amelia to his friends and band members.
“Ola, this is Amelia from London and Amelia, this is Juan, Diego, Nicolas, Matteo and this pretty lady is Africa.”
Amelia greeted each of band members with a peck on each cheek while Marty poured her some red wine. Amelia recollected that Juan was the guy on the drums, Diego on the bass guitar, Nicolas on the electric guitar and Matteo on the synthesizer.
“You guys are so amazing! I loved every bit of that performance.”
The gang smiled at the compliment. “Gracias, bella” Matteo responded.
Africa came forward to greet Amelia and said something in Spanish that Amelia did not understand.
“Que? Español, poco poco” Amelia made a hand gesture to indicate she understands little Spanish.
“No Espanol, Catalan.” Africa almost snapped. The election results were round the corner.
“I apologize, I meant Catalan. Of course.”
“Me, Matt’s girlfriend.” Africa continued. Amelia wondered if Africa was marking her territory.
“It’s lovely to meet you. I saw you cheering backstage. It’s great how supportive you are.”
“Que?” Africa called out to Diego, the guitar guy who was standing next to them in a different group, amidst a very intense discussion about Barcelona’s poor performance earlier in the match today. Africa said something to him in Spanish. “Oh so you need a translator? I charge for my services, ladies.” Diego teased, his wayfarer blue eyes alight with mischief.
Amelia noticed that he was wearing a wedding band and her heart sank a bit. The three of them talked for a while and after which Amelia felt like she needed a break from all the translations, iterations and hand gestures that it took to convey a simple idea. She decided to step out for some fresh air. A few minutes later she heard footsteps and saw it was Diego who had stepped out for a smoke himself.
“Fancy some Mary Jane?”
“I am a reform but by all means, please carry on.” Amelia chuckled.
“Then let’s keep it that way.” She watched as Diego went on to roll his cigarette. There was a minute of silence and Amelia noticed there were very fine lines at his forehead which she hadn’t noticed earlier in the dim lights. She wondered how old he was.
“How long have you been playing?”
“5 years with this band and before this I was a solo artist for almost a decade.”
“Wow.” So he must be somewhere in his mid-thirties but then why does he look like he is in his mid-twenties.
“Yes, I don’t remember doing anything else except for playing music. It keeps me in balance and these guys…they are like family.” Diego continued.
“That’s just commendable, dedicating your life to something you really love.”
“Yes, it is. So what brings you to Barcelona?”
“I am actually writing a thesis on early life of Pablo Picasso and I work as a tour guide during the day.”
“Oh really! I am a big fan of Picasso and I totally love some of his works, you know like Bottle, Glass, Fork painting and of course the famous painting of his girlfriends..Les Demoiselles d’Avigon, saw it when I was in States. Quite a revolutionary that guy.”
“Well, I swear by that-guy and yes, he did like to mix his wine, women and art.”
“but hey, Madrid has a better collection some say. Did you check that out?”, he said as he took a long drag.
“Actually, I do have a trip planned in a couple of weeks. I must admit that I am quite impressed to see your interest in art.”
“What? Whyyy? Because I am a guitarist am I supposed to be all about drugs and alcohol?” Deigo teased pretending to look hurt.
“And women” Amelia added, “and Nooooo. Come ‘on! Even non guitarists don’t like to talk about arts and let’s not forget that you are wearing the clichéd leather jacket!!”, Amelia exclaimed.
“Well, I like modern art, Cubism for one and then I too must admit that my wife used to work at an art gallery and I did my homework right.” Diego smiled like a child who had been caught cheating in an exam.
“I see. Wouldn’t it upset your wife that you are not home yet? It’s 3am” Amelia carefully asked.
“I guess it did upset her but it doesn’t… anymore.”
“I wouldn’t blame her, any girl would be threatened if her husband was a hot guitarist” Amelia blurted.
“Well… we separated a few months back.” Diego said.
“I am sorry to hear that.” Amelia could see he looked sad.
“It’s okay, been a while. Time heals” Diego said drawing a long breath. Amelia could feel an awkward silence creeping in and wondered if she had brought up a sensitive subject.
“So..you think I am hot?” Diego asked feigning to look serious but his mischevious smile gave him away.
“Noo…” Amelia laughed. “Or maybe yes, don’t be so smug!” Diego chuckled. “Maybe I could read your work sometime.”
“Really? I could use some feedback. You should come by Viena sometime. I am usually there in the evenings after wrapping up the tour.”
They went back inside when Diego finished his smoke. Inside, Clarence was strumming his guitar and playing a Christmas song. Marty was standing next to him and playing a Tambourine. Some others had formed a circle around them and were singing along with him. There were couples who had started dancing by the bar. There was happiness in the air similar to what it was like when the band was performing at the café. Amelia and Diego joined others and the night turned into an early morning before they all went back to their homes. This was definitely a night that Amelia would remember.
Chapter 3 -The Rose period
Over next few days, Amelia would frequently stop by the studio where the band practiced and jammed. She would see them writing, rewriting songs and practicing notes a hundred times over. There were cycles of frustrations, struggles, progress that would ultimately culminate into grand celebrations. In a short time, she had developed a healthy friendship with all the other band members including Africa, who loved to click photographs while the band practiced. They would sometimes go back to Africa’s apartment with a tiny darkroom where she taught Amelia how to develop photographs. Amelia noticed that most of the photos were of Matteo, capturing him in his various moods and just like Amelia, she liked to capture people when they were not watching. “These are the moments of truth,” she remarked.
Amelia learned through Africa that Clarence had been a street artist for almost a decade before he got his first break. It was through one of the locals, who happened to be present in his audience, who gave him an opportunity to perform at a restaurant near Park Guell. He was hired on a trial basis but in no time became a permanent employee as his music lured great number of audience who turned into customers for the restaurant and since then, there has been no looking back for Clarence. It was Clarence who had eventually discovered other band members with time and formed their band.
That night after Amelia came back home, she searched for his videos on YouTube and surprisingly she came across a number of them uploaded by random tourists. Those videos depicted a young Clarence playing his guitar with his guitar case laid out in front of him. Back then he had a much slender frame and shoulder length hair in dreadlocks but the exact same smile that spread eye to eye. There were people dropping change in his guitar case every now and then as he sang some of the songs that he still did with a spirit that had only grown if not remained consistent with time. At that moment, Amelia felt almost guilty for telling Javier that 25 euros were too much for a local gig.
Next day when Amelia went to the studio she gave Clarence a hug. “What’s up sunshine?” he asked a little surprised. “Can’t a friend just hug another friend?” Amelia replied authoritatively throwing her hands in the air and left smiling.
The incident with Clarence and her time with Africa made Amelia wonder if she had undermined her favorite subject, the people. Something that even Picasso never did who on the contrary loved to explore his muses in various shades and perhaps that brought out the finer artist in him, she wondered.
Amelia that day went back to her apartment to open the folder where she stacked all her sketches. For the first time she noticed that although her drawings were technically accurate, they perhaps failed to talk to its viewer and convey certain emotions. Later, she opened a photo of Diego in her phone and started drawing it on a blank canvas. A few hours later, after she was finished drawing she looked at it for a long time and realized how happy she was in that moment to have met everyone who had become a part of her life in these past few days. But more than anyone, she felt happy for having met Diego, who talked like a child but behaved like an adult. He was kind, compassionate and honest. Every day after the practice sessions, Diego would walk her back home and it had now become an unsaid ritual. Amelia eagerly waited for the day to end for those fifteen minutes of walk back home. She loved how he talked very openly about things. He was always eager to tell her how his day went and ask her about hers in return. He described even the minutest things in details and waited for a reaction. It was as if her opinion mattered to him.
Amelia wondered if this is the life that she always wanted and all the pain in the past had been culminating for this moment in her life. She loved how she had built an environment around her that fostered creativity and not only her mental health was improving but she was also growing as an artist. That night, she decided that she would express her feelings to Diego but before that she had to tell her Grandma. She poured herself a glass of wine and said a little prayer in her heart, thanking the stars for the family she never had. Next day, Amelia reached the studio after wrapping up her tour but couldn’t find Diego. He had left for Seville to meet his ex-wife.
…to be continuted.
Picture Courtesy: http://imgfave.com/view/5142195?r=pin
Gauri sat cross-legged on her queen sized bed, staring at her sixty five inch wide television screen, blankly changing channels after channels. On usual days, she liked to sink into her spotless white linens in nothing more than her bare essentials but today she did not even change out of her office wear. The awareness that she is going to turn twenty five in another few hours, in a new city, away from home, in an upscale yet unfamiliar hotel room- causing her this disquietness.
‘It’s just another day’ she repeated to herself but the realization that the past twenty four years have all been carefully preserved in well-organized folders by family and friends indicated otherwise. She remembered her birthday eve from last year, when she had made a reservation for ten at a local restaurant back at home in South Delhi and each one of her friends had politely declined the invitation at the last minute and had presented her with some feeble justification such as “we are stuck at work” except Gaurav, of course. When they returned to her apartment post dinner, she was only half surprised to be greeted by all her friends who had been hiding there for almost an hour, decorating the place and putting together a party. All through the dinner she could sense that something was fishy because Gaurav was checking his phone too often, which was unlike him and as it turned out, he had intricately planned all this for her. He ensured that everyone attends her birthday and those who couldn’t make it, leave a video message. How must he have managed all that? Has he moved on? Is he seeing someone else? Her mind wandered and she was in no mood for feelings that had started surfacing.
‘Could I be more melodramatic’ she thought after a while.
When her thoughts were interrupted by the doorbell, Gauri was partly relieved, “Who could it be?” She looked through the keyhole and saw Naman standing.
“Hi! What’s happening?” she flashed an animated smile trying to conceal her dreadfulness.
“Hey hi. I had such a long day…” He spoke as he walked in and absently sat on the couch next to the television, his thoughts someplace else.
“Well… the client meeting was a disaster. I don’t think he’s going to buy honestly, no closings for me.”
When Naman told Gauri he was having a bad day, she believed him. Naman seldom failed to impress his clients. He had a certain way of talking around his words which made almost everyone believe in him. He painted a picture so lucrative that the deal seemed godsend, almost hard not to buy. He did his homework well and was always prepared to answer any questions. In the textbook language, he had complete knowledge about self, product, company and the customer. When Gauri joined the sales team of one of the leading advertising firms as a Young Leader, she was not sure if she was actually cut out for the job mainly because it required to ‘open up’ and Gauri wasn’t sure if she could do that. It was Naman, who had already been with the firm for almost a year, who taught her the art of appearing to ‘open up’ and yet being impersonal. Gauri knew he had been trying to set up this meeting for almost a month now and dejection was palpable.
“Anyways, did you have dinner already?
“Oh yes, I was just preparing for bed.”
“Oh come’on, we have been in Bangalore for a month now, we have got to explore some new places. Let’s check out this new place round the corner. Mayank told me the crowd is really good there” He grinned.
“I know what that means…”
“Well good! Quickly get ready. Let’s put today to a good use because we are back “on time”, you know.”
“Yea, I know” replied Gauri as she slouched on her bed. “Better than being depressed on a Friday night…”
“…which also happens to be your birthday…” She quietly added to herself. She changed into a pair of denims and a wine colored off shoulder top as she set out for the evening.
Gauri inhaled the smell of smoke and sweat as she and Namit walked inside the Pentagon Club. She observed that the interior was colossal with a circular bar at the center swarmed by a bubbling crowd. The earsplitting music was a mix of popular EDM, hip hop and tech-house. The lighting were a dim yellowish-just as she liked- bright enough to see others but not enough to reveal their exactness. The vibe was upbeat and the energy contagious. Naman looked around for a table but the waiter suggested that they wait by the bar as it may take a while.
“What are you smiling at?” asked Naman as they made their way through the pulsating crowd.
“Nothing, I am just glad we came here. The place is nice.”
“Yah, me too.”
“It’s my birthday today…no tomorrow, actually at midnight so…” Gauri smiled sheepishly.
“You are telling me now? This calls for a partayy! You should have told me earlier.”
Gauri couldn’t help but smile as Naman ordered shots of ‘Passed Out Naked on the Bathroom’.
“No way. I have to work tomorrow. I can’t get sloshed!”
“Come’on, it’s your birthday! This day onwards, you can legally get drunk in this country.” He said as he raised a toast.
Gauri was pretty sure that she heard the guy next to her say “Hear, hear”.
Next morning when Gauri woke up in her hotel room, she was relieved to be safely tucked inside her bed. She tried to concentrate for a minute in order to put together a series of events from last night but there were patches of nothingness between what seemed like mind games. There were flashes of images of people she did not recognize. Her head throbbed like a drum as she tried to think harder. She dialed reception and ordered an aspirin. She groggily checked her phone and there were seventeen missed calls from family and friends and her WhatsApp was flooded with messages. “Happy birthday to me” she sighed. She reluctantly got out of the bed to use the bathroom. She splashed her faced with cold water as she observed her reflection in the mirror. Her mascara was smudged and hair ruffled. She reached out for a hair band and tied her coral black hair in a bun just when something caught her attention. She leaned closer towards the mirror to examine what appeared like a discoloration on her upper shoulder. She tried to rub it off but it was then that she realized that it wasn’t a discoloration, it was a bruise. She took a step back and sat down at the edge of her bath tub, her head buried in her hands. “What did I do…”
She called Naman who instantly picked up her phone. “Hey birthday girl, how’s it going?” he chimed.
“What happened yesterday?? I can’t remember a thing after the shots.”
“You really wanna know?”
“Yes I do!!”
“Well, I don’t know. We were having drinks and then we started dancing. Your friendly neighbor joined us in a while with his friend and I don’t know, you seemed to like him so I didn’t say much.”
“Yea, I mean you were laughing at all his jokes. Anyways, my client called me in between and I had to step outside for almost twenty five minutes, I guess. The good news is he changed his mind and he’s on board! Can you believe that?”
“Yea, who dropped me to my room?”
“…This is not the time…”
“Of course, I did! I don’t know what’s happened to you. You seemed fine or maybe I was equally drunk. Anyways, any more questions? I am in middle of a report and I spoke to the boss, it’s okay if you want to take the day off. Thank me later.”
Gauri unlocked the glass door that led to her balcony and looked down at the traffic that appeared so tiny and quiet from the fifteenth floor. There was a sea of conflicting emotions surging within her but the city went on. Nobody seemed to pause. Nobody knew but her. She wondered when did she became this person who made out with strangers and forgot. What caused this?
She remembered the day when she was eighteen and was packing her bags to leave for the hostel. Mother had joined in to assist her with the packing. She told her about the time when she had moved to the hostel herself. She was just eleven and nanaji had decided to send her along with some other cousins, to the big school in the big city. Mother told her that her warden was one hell of a woman who never spared the rod and that she was not even allowed to meet her brothers sometimes. When they were almost done with packing two hefty suitcases and an A4 sized checklist, mother made her sit down and held her hands in hers. Gauri would never forget the next few words her mother said, mostly because her mother was never a woman of too many words. She said: “My darling, it has not been an easy decision for your father to let go of you, not just because we love you but also because you will always be our baby girl. But I know him, you and your sister’s education will always come first. This is his way of showing how much he truly loves you, by choosing to let go of you, for your betterment. Education is the only thing that will ever empower you, even if your world comes crashing down. So pour out your heart to whatever you choose to study and nail it… but the important thing to remember is that ultimately education gives you knowledge and that is something which does not just comes with the books. Besides that, well,”…she paused as if searching for the right words, “my dear, never bring dishonor to the family, for now we live in a big house but we hail from a small place and your father is a self-made respectable man. Dishonor lingers for longer if it is brought upon by a daughter.” and then her mother just chuckled like she had said nothing at all. Gauri realized that it was up to her discretion how she interpreted this message. She never completely grasped the width of it but she did understand that it meant a lot. She wondered what her mother would think of her if she told her about this incident. Such conduct would definitely not be considered acceptable even in a modern society. She suddenly felt even farther from home. She realized that she had even forgotten to call back her parents in between this mayhem and debauchery.
She checked her phone for messages and there was one from Naman that read, “Drinks lot of water, you’ll be fine. Shit happens.” Gauri had a feeling that Naman knew what happened and was trying to respect her privacy. This is the thing she liked about boys that unlike most girls, they did not like to dissect every single detail.
As she looked on to the coordinated traffic, a part of her couldn’t help but feel a bit thespian as she could relate herself to the prima donna in one of Hozier’s songs where the protagonist seemed to be undergoing a kind of deep agony caused by some sort of irreversible love loss that caused her to resort to meaningless intimacy. “How could this have made her feel any better and what possibly is my suffering?” She pondered for a while without much of a comeback.
Gauri went back inside her room and decided to take a hot shower. She examined her svelte figure in the mirror as she tardily undressed. She stepped under the shower and turned the lever on high allowing the water to wash down her body as steam fogged the glass walled cuboid. She closed her eyes as her skin soaked in the heat and her thoughts jaded. She stood until her legs got tired after which she finally stepped out and patted herself dry. ‘What next?’ she thought as she slouched on her bed. Her phone lit up as it flashed Varsha, who had been her best friend since college first year.
“Happy Birthday girl!” came a cheerful voice from across the phone.
“Thank you!” replied Gauri trying to match the excitement.
“What’s happening? You have been conveniently ignoring my calls.”
“Yea, I have been busy celebrating my birthday.”
“So…what did my big girl do?”
“Well, you know, the usual, whored around and stuff,” replied Gauri in a condescending tone.
“Huh? What? Tell me everything!” demanded Varsha.
Gauri knew that she couldn’t escape this one. Girls are not best friends until they say everything out loud.
“OK. So I went to a club yesterday with Naman and…. I kind of got drunk and I may have made out or…more with a guy at the slightest opportunity that presented itself…God! I don’t want to talk about it. I feel so guilty as such.”
“Guilty? What? Why?”
“I don’t know. I am just not that kind of person.”
“What kind of person?” Gauri could suddenly sense seriousness in Varsha’s tone.
“A person who… you know… does all this and its okay for them” replied Gauri.
“Them? What’s them? Nobody is born like them, they become them and who we become is none of anybody’s business until it is at their physical, mental or emotional expense. Come ‘on! Does this mean you have been judging me all this time?”
“No! Of course not! I don’t judge you or anyone but it’s just that I don’t want to become that person.”
“Then don’t. A single instance never defined a person, for both good and bad. I think you are being too hard on yourself.”
“Really? I am not being hard at all. I just didn’t expect this from myself. I am quitting alcohol. I wouldn’t even recognize that guy in the broad daylight. I am not even sure if…you know…if I liked it.”
“Oh.. too bad if you don’t even remember. Calm down though. I have an idea. How about you gift yesterday to yourself on your birthday for the fact that this could very much be classified as a new experience.”
“Hmmm, I am listening…”
“You know, you have aged an year older and learned about a completely new side of yourself and this at least, presents an insight for the future” Continued Varsha.
“And you know it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you don’t repeat them. Take it as a lesson although this is not a mistake. I repeat – not a mistake. An experience perhaps. We are strong, independent women, man!”
“Wow, look at you talking all grown up. Can we talk about something else now?”
“No. Give me at least some details. Your stinginess is killing me here.” Varsha teased.
“Okay. I have to hang up. Mom’s calling. Byee.”
“I know, I know. Happy Birthday. Bye and come back soon!”
As Gauri hung up the phone, she thought about what Varsha had said about a single instance not defining a person. It would be like going for a run for a day and then presuming results. If this happened then there would be no persistent efforts to prove oneself, no grit to chase one’s goals and probably no joy in life, for joy comes when a possibility becomes an actuality once the former ingredients are tactfully executed. Maybe building a character was something like building a body. She thought that the surfacing mixed sentiments are probably a manifestation that she hasn’t completely lost her way. She could still embrace a path she thinks fit because if she would have already chosen one then there would have been no disorientation, no mixed feelings and this in itself presented a hope. It also meant that knowing is always better than wondering and the fact that she had gained a new experience without any irredeemable smirch on her consciousness, was perhaps even worthwhile. Maybe she will laugh about it someday when the layers will be old and dusted but until then, maybe it’s just better to keep on going like the never halting traffic because time never really stopped ticking for anyone, then why should you?
At some point in time, we all tend to be lost in this strange labyrinth of life, not just because it is uncertain, challenging and demanding but because just sometimes one stumbles upon a realization that there is a void and nothing ever seems to fill it.
Sometimes in to the nights so dark,
sometimes into my thoughts so deep
I look for you with all my heart
up till where my eyes can see.
I look for happiness
I look for peace
I look for something
that shall mean something to me.
I tried for clothes
I tried for books
I tried for drugs
still my hunt didn’t cease.
I don’t know what’s written for me
I wonder if ever anything is written for anybody
I wonder if life is just a journey
Or a bubble, a dream-so momentary.
Not always are my paths so right
At times I walk without the light
At times into the forests so dark
I keep wandering till the last.
So my heart sings me a song
tells me these thoughts are a Pandora’s box
tells me to listen to what It says
but like a wild feather, the heart sways and sways.
A travesty, a game, a drama or desire
Questions, confusions, a truth so satire
A deck of cards or a house of one
many conjectures to this world.
still I look for it
up till where my eyes can see
into the nights so dark,
and my thoughts so deep.
(Originally written in 2011.)
Background: There are a few things that remain unspoken of usually because the adult heart, which has experienced enough suffering does not want to plunge in too soon. The adult heart chooses to be secure and sure. Most people choose not to express their feelings of affection for the same reason, not just because they fear rejection but because they do not trust their heart and the games it plays.
In her conversation with Cooper, Dr. Brand in the movie Interstellar has explained this sensation of feeling affectionate towards somebody quite optimally. She says: ‘it means something we can’t…yet understand. Maybe it’s some evidence, some artifact of a higher dimension that we can’t consciously perceive. I’m drawn across the universe to someone I haven’t seen in a decade… Who I know is probably dead. Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends dimensions of time and space’.
The following poem that was penned down in the summer of 2012 in a college classroom, gazing outside the window into nothingness, tries to articulate what remained to be largely unsaid but not un-felt during that time. Continue reading “What were you?”