Meteor Shower

How strange is this time. Days pile up against days, float over the little joys and hurt of everyday life like flower petals in the wind. You find yourself grappling through it, immersed in the bittersweet deliciousness of it, and then suddenly, another year has come and gone.

The weather in Bangalore makes everything seem so woefully wonderful. The skies are overcast, the breeze is chilly, our fluffiest blankets are out, the roads are rain-kissed and the trees are greener. (Of course, there are madening traffic jams, flooded streets and power cuts, but I’m choosing to focus on the good stuff).

I just peeled a pomegranate and now I’m reaping the benefits of all the hard work and the stains on my T-shirt. Sometimes talking about the banalities of life is fun, isn’t it? In other good news, I finally visited the planetarium since its renovation. I felt like a kid again, sitting up and staring at the dome, looking at the millions of stars we don’t actually get to see anymore. And when the show started and I saw the Milky Way and the smallness of us – I just sat there and cried. Felt the goosebumps form all over my arms and legs, felt our seats moving as the screen zoomed in and out of galaxies and constellations. More people need to visit planetariums, because we don’t look up at the sky anymore, and when we do, we don’t see the stars like our forefathers used to. We need to remind ourselves again and again that none of our lives really matter, and why that is a brilliant and a liberating thought. Why that is a gift, a privilege, and not a right. Why we need to salvage all the love and all the humanity we can in our lifetimes, because really, the universe is far too big to care about you or me. And why realizing that is the biggest gift of all.

This weekend I also attended Dot’s concert, after listening to her serenading me on particularly dull work days. She’s an 18-year-old artist called Aditi, and she’s so beautiful – inside and out. Her voice is like milk and honey, and before each song, she had a sweet little story about its origin. I lost my heart to her that night. Her innocence and niceness is what makes her music so good. People really underestimate the power of being kind. Of talking in soft, low tones, of not needing to prove their dominance, of not having the upper hand in every situation, of treating everybody with the same respect and compassion they expect in return. As Margaritas flowed freely and candles flickered in that tiny dark pub, I felt happier than I have in a long, long time. I closed my eyes and locked that moment and promised myself I’ll try to be a better, simpler, more genuine, more forgiving person.

A few days back I was feeling a certain type of feeling that seemed indescribable. So I started writing. And what I produced on paper seemed like a poem. And so I recorded it. Sharing it here with all of you. I hope you like it 🙂

We always seek each other out like two whales calling
From thousands of miles away.
I reach out to you not because you’re different,
But because you know none of us really are that different,
And to you, that’s okay.

We collide like a bolt of lightning and the cloud.
Like the spray of a waterfall and the rock.
Like the mighty mountain and the glacier.

My heart beats and beats with the rhythm of us.
Of the dazzle of colour and madness and wonder.
Dubdub, dubdub, dubdub.

And then,

Like a supernova –
The end.
The glow and the explosion of the fleeting magic that was us.

The wrecking ball to our mansion.
The wildfire to our forest.
The tsunami to our island.

Unlike the others, our story ends in unrequited love.

So tell me, dear friend,
How do you expect me to be whole
As chunks of me are chipped away
Bit by bit
With each ending.

When this world takes away more than it can give?
When the nights are longer than the days could ever be?

And then a voice takes over.
Shh.
It’s alright.
Breathe.
Live.
Shine.
There’ll be more unions,
More explosions,
More magic.

We’re not that different, you and I.
We try to make sense of a world
That has seemed to lose its senses.
We look for love, and beauty, and
Acceptance, and depth and warmth.

So come, let’s bask in the glory of a world
That wasn’t meant for us.
Let’s look at the skies full of stars
That don’t twinkle for us.
Let’s look at clouds and comets,
At snowfall and mountains
At roaring oceans and fireflies

Because what else is life, if not for a series of
Tears and laughter,
Dreams and madness
Stories and potions
Hellos and goodbyes?

Life is.. life is a sunset.
Life is impermanence.
Life is nothingness.
Life is a blink.
Life is the space between darkness and light.
Flimsy and fickle, and always, always lurking in the shadows.

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Shadow of the Day

chester

Dear Chester,

The first line is always the toughest. Type, backspace. Type, enter. Type, delete document. I always pause, stutter, hesitate.

Writing late into the silence of nights like these, I feel like I’m laying myself bare. I think of all those letters I never posted, the emails that are still gathering dust in my drafts folder, the texts that never saw the light of day. There’s too much that should have been said, tears that should have been shed, hugs that should have been offered.

I don’t want to do that again. I need to let it out before it joins the long list of feelings I extinguished like the last few embers of a dying cigarette.

I miss you. Not in the traditional sense, no. I miss you in a way you deserve to be missed. With a force brighter than a thousand suns, slowing ebbing and billowing and flowing through me. The grief simmering beneath, but never breaking through the surface.

How silly it seems. My life is seemingly unchanged. Isn’t it?

Is it?

You did what you had to do. And I’m proud of you. People sit and pass judgements at you, they say you let them down. Theirs is the worst case of entitlement. They couldn’t deal with the fact that you were in pain. Instead of understanding your suffering, they’d rather malign you now because they can’t deal with the unpleasantness of having lost an artist they loved. How selfish we all can be. They don’t deserve you. They didn’t know you were a fighter. They didn’t know what it was like to be you.

I know you have no way of knowing this, but about a decade ago, two oily-skinned girls sat on a wobbly chair in an abandoned classroom in a hundred-year-old Catholic building and watched you growl into your mic on the tiniest, scratchiest screen in the world. You were thousands of miles away, but they loved you. They talked about your life like they were a part of it, they dissected your songs, your lyrics, talking about how it made them feel. They had a diary with your songs written neatly in them, and they used up their free time to sing along with you. They sculpted a character that had your name in their stories, they wondered when you would release the next album. They engraved your name on an old water tank near a graveyard in school, wore an earplug in each ear, and listened to you when they should have been studying for a test. To them, you were alive. You were a part of their everyday life. They grew up with you.

They spoke about the loneliness of Valentine’s Day, the brilliance of Hands Held High, the isolation of My December, the pain of What I’ve Done, the dread and depth of Shadow of the Day, the desperation of Numb, the breathlessness of Crawling. Each song had its special place in their hearts. They believed they understood you. They knew you.

How do I tell you how much they looked up to you? Your music mirrored the anxiety they felt, you gave them the words they didn’t have the courage to utter. When you crooned, your voice soothed them as they lay in bed, fretful before an exam. When you screamed, it pulsated through them with cathartic ecstasy. Between you and Mike, you were everything two teenage girls with surging hormones and a career-obsessed family needed. You were courage. You were comfort. You were power. You were love.

They dreamed of the day they’d grow up and make enough money to see you live, spinning intricate stories of how they’ll react, what they’ll feel, what they’ll say, what you’d look like standing in front of them in flesh and blood.

Tonight, it truly feels like the beginning of the end. Mortality is glaring at us in the face, screaming that people we love are slowly beginning to slip away, and that it’ll only get worse. That life is agony, and it’s fragile, and it’s unfair. That it takes away more than it can give. That it’s intensity, and despair and decline and it’s all over way too fast. That you don’t get to fulfill many, many dreams and that you’ve to learn to deal with it. That the world owes you nothing and that you can do everything to hold on to everything you love, but it all ends with a sudden, white, blinding light.

Tonight, we remember you, Chester. We don’t want to let you go. We don’t want to say goodbye.

Tonight, we ache.

Dunkirk

Dunkirk

When you watch a Nolan movie, you know you’re not being spoonfed. You’ve been served an exquisite dish – with tasteful and minimalistic cutlery – and it’s up to you how you make your way through it.

I’d never been so excited about a war film before I watched Dunkirk’s trailer. I was curious to see how Nolan goes about it, and it’s safe to say that he has turned the very concept on its head in a way only he could have. Of course, he bought and decimated an actual Spitfire, and of course, he shot it in 70mm – those things are expected from a director revered globally for his godlike movie-making prowess. But what amazed me were certain things that changed the meaning of war films in general, in a way none of us could have fathomed.

When it’s Nolan, you know the linear passage of time will get kicked hard in the butt. But I didn’t realize there were three completely different time passages being shown simultaneously in the film – one week, one day, and one hour. Through all the gunshots, dizzying POVs from fighter planes, the jagged breathing, and the sheer desperation, I didn’t even have the time to process it. I did realize what the mad genius had done towards the end when all three stories (on land, water and sea) came together in a maddening crescendo. Beautiful.

Nolan didn’t use similar war tropes in this movie. There was no need to even mention the Germans, let alone show us their side of the story. Why? Because that wasn’t the point. The point was to bring us as close as possible to the face of war, trap us inside its murky jaws, make us feel the pointlessness of battlefields, make us hold our breaths and jump in our seats. There are no heroes in the film, so to speak. If we had to spell it out, then survival or getting home is the protagonist, and war or death, the antagonist. Getting out of Dunkirk is the only thing that mattered. Even the title of the film says a lot about what it focuses on.

Another thing I appreciated about the movie is that it doesn’t use any sentimentality, which is the easiest thing to do in a movie surrounded by death and destruction. There was no carnage, no pieces of bodies flying off, no soldiers crying out for their friends, no wives/children/parents waiting for their sons back home. There was no war strategy, no blooming friendships, no extended shots of dead soldiers. He didn’t use any well-known actors, there was hardly any dialogue, he didn’t even show Hitler or Churchill. He didn’t need to do all that because that wasn’t his intention. All he wanted the viewer to do was to be there – at the beach, on the ships, in the jets, under the water, fighting for their lives amidst fire and missiles and torpedos. Everything else seems too insignificant.

The shots were breathtaking. You almost felt like a war videographer, following these soldiers, trying to survive yourself. You were as much a part of the narrative as any other soldier – crawling like ants in neat files, finding refuge in abandoned boats, waiting with an acquired sense of patience, hoping and hoping to be taken home. Everything from shaky camera movements, to disorienting shots of capsizing ships, to the deafening sound of gunshots – everything in the movie is designed to shake you, to play on all your senses. It’s not a dramatic movie, but with the looming terror of dread and Hans Zimmer’s heart-stopping music, it’s a psychological thriller. It’ll make you hold your breath right until Tom Hardy successfully lands the plane on that beach, right until the soldiers reach home. Dunkirk is not a story, it’s a first-hand experience, less likely to make you exit the hall with tearful eyes, and more likely to make you walk out with a glazed, vacant expression.

In terms of character development, I wouldn’t say I could feel too much about any of the characters. I didn’t even get most of their names – but I guess that is what Nolan wanted to do. I wouldn’t say it’s as amazing a spectacle as Interstellar, the music not nearly as haunting, the characters not as long-lasting, but it’s definitely something that makes you forget the hall, forget the people, forget the world around you. It’s an exercise in complete immersion – it’s existential, it’s introspective, it’s deeply personal, almost meditative. And that’s what great cinema is all about.

So Now What

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Wow, 2017 already feels so old. Seems like yesterday when we were all happily making silent resolutions and sighing and convincing ourselves that nothing can be as bad as the year 2016.

Well.

A while ago a fresh bout of anxiety struck me. See, the thing with anxiety is, the more you try to ignore it, the more it flares up. It’s like a spoilt, obstinate kid that demands all your attention and energy. So I gave in. I sat and let it attack me with full force from all sides. I dealt with all the little nagging problems my brain was firing at me. I was answering my questions patiently, trying not to be too hard on myself, but the questions just wouldn’t stop.

“Oh yeah? What about the time you turned your back against your best friend in 5th standard?”

“And what about the time you absconded from home and sent everyone into a furious state of panic?”

This time, it was a classic case of self-admonishment and loathing. You see, I am not known to have made very good decisions in life. It’s only in hindsight that I realize the horror and embarrassment I had caused my friends and family. I’m still reeling from the after effects of some of those decisions. I know what some of you will say. “Oh, don’t hold regrets because all the paths you chose led you to this place in life and made you who you are, so it was all meant to be!”

Please, just save it.

Sometimes you do things that cause irreversible damage to your system, or your relationships or your lives and you can’t do anything about it and that’s OKAY. We’re all complicated humans with brains that haven’t been fully understood and higher states of consciousness and hormones and mood swings and probably a lot more we don’t even know about. So it’s okay to accept things for how they are. We don’t need to sugarcoat everything just to make ourselves feel better. Suck it up and pull yourself together. Or not. It’s your call.

Last week I was in the shower and all these decisions came running back to me and I literally said out loud, “JUST LIVE WITH IT.”

(Side note: So Now What by The Shins is my new favourite nostalgia-inducing song.)

I rarely ever have happy dreams anymore. They’re either gruesome, post-apocalyptic, or involves people I’d rather not think about. I trudge through the day feeling emotionally heavy, a bitter aftertaste I try to cover up with cups of chai, and sometimes milky coffee with extra sugar. I’m hungry almost all the time. I don’t know why my stomach is turning into this bottomless pit. Oh wait, I know why. I’m eating all my feelings. Distracting myself. Telling myself it’s okay, because look! I can eat this entire sub all by myself with the cheese dripping down my hand as I binge-watch Master of None.

Oh, by the way, please watch Master of None. I love it not only for how real it is, but also for the incredible production quality and cinematography. They’ve used such classic and techniques: black and white, simultaneous cuts, muted audio, continuous wide shots. And just their ability to show relationships begin and grow and change and decay. It’s brilliant. I would recommend it any day.

Tell me something. Do you have days when you’re like, “Oh god, I’m already too tired of life?” Where your brain wants to shut down, or reboot or just wants to voluntarily conk off just for a little while? No? Yeah, me neither. *looks away sheepishly*

I’m reading this book called The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu. Despite some bad reviews I read on Goodreads, I LOVE it. The stories are a perfect mix of science-fiction, fantasy, drama, everything put together into a wonderful, wonderful book. So glad I came across it.

Also, dear readers (the entirety of the three and a half people who actually read what I write), if there’s someone you’re not able to get over, please watch this video. I promise it’ll make you feel better. I love all of School of Life’s videos. I love the authoritative voice, the wisdom, the beautifully and succinctly constructed sentences.

I’m currently on a sort of “purge” in my life. It really sucks, but like someone used to say to me. “It has to be done.” Whoa, it just started pouring outside. With thunder, lightning, rattling windows, the works. Pathetic fallacy, much?

You know in Assamese, when people separate for short periods of time, say a few days or so, they don’t say “bye” to each other. There’s no word for goodbye in their language. What they say is “Moi aahi aasu”, which translates to “I’ll be back soon.” Isn’t that sweet? 🙂

Anyway, I’ll unburden my woes through something else now. Maybe watch Moonlight? Though I’m not sure I’m ready to cause so much emotional damage to myself yet. Probably watch American Gods? Let’s see.

P.S. I can’t believe Chris Cornell is gone. This just proves that behind all those appearances, there’s a whole new person, probably trying to deal with their own anxieties, in their own ways, and often failing at it. Ben shared one of his lesser known albums with me, and each song is as beautiful as the other. Listen, and go cry into your pillow, okay?

I’ll be back. Like always.

Much love.

Neon, neon, neon

IMG_20161224_114832_HDR (1)
Bits of patchy sunlight.

It’s the 13th of April. There’s something so inauspicious about today. Sinister, almost. I’m not a big fan of this month. I’m waiting for June, desperately. The moon is hanging low tonight, uncannily orange. From my window, it looks like a gigantic bulb in the sky.

Alt-J just released the official video of their new song. It’s so despairingly melancholic. So otherworldly. I can’t believe the intensity with which I love the things (and the people) I love. It breaks my heart.

I’m writing in this weird, staccato fashion because my thoughts are too varied and disjointed, and this is a new technique I’m trying out. Seems easier, somehow. I don’t have it in me to glide from one topic to another without any effort. (It’s only temporary though).

I deactivated my Facebook account today. I feel so damn liberated. Lately I have been spending too much time on it, and the emotions I’ve been feeling have all been negative – anxiety, sadness, shock, annoyance. And yet, and yet, I was browsing through the damned site like a drug addict. My thumb would just automatically reach out for the bloody blue sign and then I’d scroll like a zombie, not really processing anything fully. Why was I doing that to myself? So I decided to detox for a bit by taking a couple of months off. (On the plus side, I can still sign in through my Facebook-enabled Goodreads account through Amazon! Thank god for loopholes.)

I just finished a writing workshop I had participated in. Lots of stories, discussions, feedback, critiques, words, long nights, crippling self-doubt and angst later, I can say that I’m finally one step closer to the actual art of writing. It’s a lot of work. A. Lot. Of. Work. But it’s something I’m willingly going to put myself through. I have to do it. I have to.

I recently met some wonderful people and warmed up to them so organically. Something that I’ll always be thankful to Bangalore for is the barrage of people it brought my way, some of them so close to me I can’t imagine the last three years without them.

Which brings me to the next point. I’ve been in Bangalore for three whole years now. When did I grow up, man? I look at my fresh-out-of-college pictures and I realize I even look different now. A little more matured, a little more flab on the hips, the youthful skinniness of the face has been squandered away (like a boss). I like it though. I feel like JD when he turns from Bambi into a third year resident at Sacred Heart. (Whuddup Scrubs reference!). There’s still a lot of uncertainties and even though I may not know what I want, I certainly know what I don’t want. And that’s an important lesson to learn.

I’m reading a lot, lot more now, thanks to my Kindle. I do watch a movie once in a while, but reading is something I did not want to lose touch with, and I’m so happy that hasn’t happened. The last book I read was Roald Dahl’s ‘Switch Bitch’. My brain feels vandalized right now. I love him more as an adult fiction writer because he’s so unapologetically edgy, sexy and bizarre. Also read ‘A Monster Calls’ by Patrick Ness. A book that only fully hit me once I was done with it. It kind of took my breath away.

There are certain truths about life and existence that I’m beginning to understand, and I feel a little more stable, and a little more at peace. Just a little. A teeny bit. I’m learning how to love myself again. Baby steps. I’m learning how to meditate, how to tame my anxiety, how to learn from it, how to grow despite it. I’m learning how to accept who I am. The real me, with all the fusses and frills.

A friend shared a TED talk with me today, and it kind of changed me a little. Check it out, and if you’re someone who gets extremely excited talking about life, the cosmos, consciousness, evolution, society, (and if you’re in Bangalore), let’s meet up over a cuppa coffee and talk 🙂 I’ve realized that connections with like-minded people are essential to keep your sanity in check.

I’ll be back soon. This time, hopefully, with some stories to tell. I know they’re in there, somewhere. I wish you all the best in the world.

Lots of love. ❤

You’re not my sunshine

You’re not my sunshine
You’re the night sky
Studded with a million sparkly stars that reflect back
My own vices, doubts, fears, dreams, questions
I could lie underneath you
Awake, uplifted, astute
And if I could, I’d never let it turn into day
Because the sun could never be what you are
Every single day, just by existing
You’re not my sunshine
You’re my inky black sky.
You come and go on stormy nights
Silent, but luminous
You come to me during the witching hours of dark reason
You’re the stolen treasure I buried long ago
That I unearth day after day with my bare hands
I dig deeper and deeper till my fingers bleed and I can dig no more
You’re the shadow of an extinct tree
You’re the itch on a phantom limb
You’re the part of me I wish I could remove
But the one I can’t exist without
Because it is I, and I am it
You’re not my sunshine
You’re my dark grey cloud.

Hello, summer :)

ch

Seasons change slowly. It’s a process that takes days and weeks and months. But one summer evening when you’re sitting in bed, you realize it’s a bit chilly. So you take out your blanket and suddenly, winters are here!

Change always occurs gradually, it’s the realization that hits all at once. This happens in life too. You’re sitting at your desk working, and out of nowhere, you feel like you’re a different person than you were a few months ago. You’re a little more grown-up, a little more in control, a little more responsible. (Okay who are you kidding? You’re still lost and clueless most of the times). But you’ve finally started accepting who you are. You’re not trying to change yourself anymore. You may decide to keep certain parts of yourself stashed away, but you’re not pretending to be someone else. It’s such a liberating feeling. To let yourself go, to be vulnerable and honest to your own self. To cry into your pillow if you feel like it, and not berating yourself for it.

You know how little things cause a lot of pain? Rude remarks. Unspoken words. Cold shoulders. A neglected friend. A trip you’ve been meaning to take. Not stopping to breathe. Tiny little regrets that you keep living with till they make your shoulders droop and shrivel like flower petals out in the summer sun.

It works similarly the other way round. There may be things not going very well in your life, but you’re at a stage where you can do something about it. So you get up, bundle your uncombed hair up in a scruffy little bun (that really works when you’re trying to get some serious work done), you play some Milky Chance, change your bed sheet, stow away your fluffy blanket, clear out your drawers and desk, throw away those cartons you keep hoarding for no reason, re-arrange your books on your bed stand and you realize that little things go a long way. Things like telling your cook that you really appreciate his food for the first time ever. Like standing in your balcony and enjoying a cup of tea you made for yourself with a lot of effort. Because you deserve that tea. You deserve all the tea in the world. Because you’re just a regular person, trying to be nice, and good, and you’re just fine the way you are. Being cool and sarcastic with a touch of ‘swag’ is something you can’t handle. Because that’s not you. Stop trying to fit in. Be that wobbly little, oddly-shaped piece in the jigsaw puzzle. There are more puzzles out there, waiting to be discovered. You’ll see.

And even though you know this new-found love for life is temporary and will pass soon, and it’s probably being caused by your overactive ovaries and your hyperactive hormones and overenthusiastic sweat glands), you accept it. You welcome it, and let it wash over you. You’re happy being human. But you also know those overbearing thoughts will come back soon to haunt you. But that’s the price you pay for being creatures with a higher consciousness. You feel extreme pleasure, and you feel extreme pain. That’s just the way it is. So enjoy the sunshine on your face for a while. Stop and take in the smell of summer. Breeeeeeathe. Lock in your feelings for now, so that when you come back to them on a bad day, you can remind yourself that seasons always change. Gradually, slowly, and then all at once.