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Claustrophobia

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It starts with a thought or two. It starts to spread, slowly, to all of your mind and haunts you until you do something that sets you ‘free’. Don’t you ever feel like you’re trapped in this room, this city, this country or this life and you need to runaway from the people around you, go somewhere new and stay there till you start calling it home?

When my friends pass by the huge mansion (4 crosses away from my humble dwelling!) that’s on the way home ,which has a well-trimmed garden, an Audi and a BMW parked in their porch, they feel a sense of awe. I feel something different: suffocation, at the thought of living my entire life in a single house (however beautiful it might be).

Would my sunsets be around this place for years? Would I think of this crossing every night when I’m longing to be at home? Would I marry someone I meet in a cafe, on a usual Tuesday? Would I end up having my kids sent to the same college as mine? Would I, one day, become too old to move and end up dying in the same house, I made love to a man who spoke a foreign tongue?

Isn’t it scary to have the feeling that you’ve not seen enough of this world and you’ve met people just by the probability of them being in the same place as you, at an instance of time?

I hate the term “Commitment Issues”. I’d been labeled “Unstable” and put into that box once. Its not commitment that I’m scared of, but hurting someone unintentionally. For a long time I simply didn’t date people, cause I was scared of the love fading away. My biggest fear then and now is waking up one morning and realizing I don’t love the person I thought I’d love forever, anymore.

It’s not about “There’re plenty of fish in the sea.” It’s more about not lying about how you don’t feel about someone or something the way you used to and being honest with yourself.Its about taking some time off to rejuvenate yourself.

In Greek mythology, phoenix is believed to obtain new life by rising from the ashes of its predecessor. That’s how I feel sometimes, like its a cycle of emotions I’m going through but I find a new muse somehow; something that inspires me to keep going on.

I think if you’re claustrophobic, you’ve got to live with it all your life. You might meet people who’d hold your hand when it gets hard to stay in there and help you walk out. You might even run away from them. Or you might choose to stay.

This Claustrophobia might go away for some time but it will come back. It’s not in some person that you’d find a perfect partner and stop feeling this way (after all love doesn’t come with a guarantee!).Its in yourself you’ve got to put trust and walk straight.Time and again you’d realize the only constant is you and you’re a whole in yourself.

Does it feel better to know the grass is not greener on the other side? Abandonment feels just as worse.

What matters is how you handle it. You might mess it up sometimes. You might fail at explaining people how you feel or worse, they might even judge you. What counts is how well you take it and continue to go through life despite the urge to just runaway because it’ll feel different when you look back years from now.You might laugh at what you were feeling or you might feel proud thinking about the battles you fought.

 

Reference:

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11596/why-you-feel-either-trapped-or-abandoned-in-relationships.htm

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Nausea

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Photo Courtesy: Aniruddho Majumder

 

“Breathe. Breathe deeper. Open the windows. It’s all good. Think of pineapples and berries. Also, think of the last time you were at the beach, think of salt in the air, waves touching your feet, breeze touching your face…”

It starts suddenly, you try to ignore it, often thinking of all the good things you know of. You know it can come out anytime. You feel like you can stop it. Stop this feeling of uneasiness. It takes control of you. After you realize what it is, you are too uncomfortable to think of “good things” to distract yourself. It’s too late to think. All you can do is act, find a place to throw it all up.

Fast forward a minute, you either feel better taking it all out or knowing it was just a sensation which has gone (at least, for now).

***

Nausea is more than the discomfort a sick person experiences. We could all have felt Nausea at times, in situations we hate finding ourselves in.

Nausea is when you’re at the finest restaurant in the city on a Saturday evening, eating sushi and drinking wine, thinking to yourself “Why am I even here?” and wishing you could watch that Man City match with your hommies drinking Beck’s.

Nausea is when you’re in the metro, five minutes short of your stop, not knowing what to do till the countdown ends (exhilarated cause the travel is about to end). You start tapping your feet. You start looking outside of the window only to see the reflection of the lady who had checked you head to toe, and who you were trying to avoid having any eye contact with. So you try distracting yourself; shaking your head to a beat you’re not even humming in your head or by looking at your phone, replying to unread messages from a month ago.

Nausea is also when you’ve ten units of Auditing for exam the next day and you don’t know where to start. You know you’re not becoming an auditor in this lifetime, for sure. You also don’t care about audit preparation, performance, roles & duties of an inspector or an auditor being either a watchdog or a trusted advisor to internal management. You feel frustrated but all you do is ask your friend for notes.

It might also be nausea when you’re watching Hachiko with your younger sister, trying not to cry, seeing how Hachi would go to the train station every morning and afternoon when the train was due to arrive at the Shibuya Station, waiting for his dead owner to come back, for over ten years. You breathe heavily, your ears turn red, tears start to drip but you’re on your side of bed, away from her. But you sob a little, a little more and then the next thing you know is both of you crying together. Also, laughing at how miserable y’all look.

I bet it’s Nausea when a dear friend confesses his love for you. It feels as though his friendship was flawed, all his words out of love for you. You feel pukish thinking about how he thinks the two of you’d do well together. You know well you’ll either have to lose him or worse hurt him.

It could also be nausea thinking of how much your grandmother loves you and her world revolves around you. The fact that your world seems like much more saddens you. You love her, you love being around her. But you seem to forget talking to her when you’re back to college after the Christmas break.

***

I have emotional motion sickness
Somebody roll the windows down
There are no words in the English language
I could scream to drown you out

I’m on the outside looking through
You’re throwing rocks around your room
And while you’re bleeding on your back in the glass
I’ll be glad that I made it out
And sorry that it all went down like it did…

Motion Sickness – Phoebe Bridgers

***

I once read Khalil Gibran wrote letters to May Ziadeh, a Palestinian feminist writer, for twenty years. May Ziadeh was a champion of Gibran’s writings. By critiquing Khalil Gibran’s books, she spread his works across the Arab world and enhanced her own reputation as a literary critic. Gibran always replied to her letters and articles with utmost elegance and delicacy.

The lovers could never meet despite being very close to each other. In his last letter, Khalil wrote to Ziadeh about his longing for homeland.

Isn’t it disturbing, painful even to know that life can be so unfair?

***

It’s a usual Monday morning. The water’s hot, shower on. I can listen to Stereophonics playing through the door. I’m trying not to think of the work I’ve to do or the people I’ve to call. I could stay in here forever. But it’s already been twenty minutes. I decide it to be the equilibrium of hot and cold and walk out wrapped in towel. Also, I go in to take my specs which are fogged by the steam, by now. The room smells of aromatic lavender shower gel!

I enjoy orange marmalade and toast, going through my Bloomberg feed.

***

 

 

For anyone who wants to read more about Khalil Gibran and May Ziadeh:

https://passion4pearl.wordpress.com/2014/07/21/gibran-and-may-ziadeh/

 

Scars

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Sofia was already “home” when her roommate had come, all exhausted.

Smell of cigarette smoke rushed in with her as she contemptuously kicked off her shoes before entering the lodgings she shared with Sofia.

Something felt disturbing, in her “Hello” itself. She thought how did she know but then they’d had many a topsy events and turvy nights. Seeing her eyes, Sofia knew that she hadn’t slept a wink in the past week.

It was him again, she thought, her face contorting into a frown set in stone, she knew that she was helpless neither could she enter her dreams nor could she change her heart.

………..

She was trying to drown either her senses or her memories in good old Rum. She was trying to snort her way into a state of no pain. She was trying to stone herself to freedom from memories, of any and all kinds. She wanted to forget yesterday. Her pain increased with the sleepless nights she’d kept herself up, the timeless hours that she had to keep up every day with his memories, her pain was palpable in her eyes, looking but not seeing. Open but not watching. In her hands, moving but not doing. And in her smile, perfunctory but not real. After all, it wasn’t just another heartbreak. This was not your usual girl meets guy, they fall in love, have fights, separate and then live happily ever after in the end.

When girls around her were opening bottles and opening up all night, she felt like a stranger, she knew people but didn’t bother to talk, she knew when her friends ate but she sat alone in the corner. Her friends, too , did not let her know that they were worried, churling into peals of laughter before the inevitable tear welled and for her laugh, her happiness, her heart at her mind would force a yell.

She was scared of a man’s touch, of his kindness, of his lips lost in hers, of the smell of his after-shave which she smelled on her cheeks as he would whisper in her ears.

Sofia had searched all over the net, talked to her doctor friends and sought advice from her brother. When something like this happens, victim is affected on every level, every part of the being wants to end and every sense in the body is dull. A simple joke may not bring a smile but a sarcastic comment could open a tap of tears. Pain is funny for it presses odd buttons and oddly do people react to it. Odder still is the fact, no one wants to acknowledge it. Never, for a second , understanding that acceptance is the first step to  a peace, a peace that had kept her awake, a peace that has raged around her, a peace she could not get a piece of.

Sofia was broken yet wanting to hide her pain she acted glib. Only letting her true self out in front of her closest friends. The ones she knew would understand, the ones she knew would not judge, the ones she knew were there to stay and the ones she knew would not budge.

That afternoon when news had come in, Sofia remembered how her friend had clung on , how she had sobbed. The tomboy had cried like a little desolate girl.

Few months later, when news seeped in of her daily drinking binges at the seedy college bar, Sofia was worried. They had a talk. Sofia said she understood but she looked at Sofia knowing she never could.

……..

As the seasons changed and quilts were replaced by linen sheets, things had changed course. Sofia saw love happening twice. Also sometimes, talking into her phone all through the night and sometimes not touching it even once, the smile was back in the eyes, the smile which had been wiped off, after him, now returned without him. Life had gone on, a new day had shone. Hopes were flying around and dreams were travelling in the air despite their resolutions and sincere promises that they shall not dream together.

She’d often seen the way how men and women became wine for her water. She often marveled at how she mixed with new people like soda mixing into brandy. Not even waiting long enough for the rocks in his scotch to dissolve before she’d captured his attention. But Sofia was the spicy green chilli, a conventional accompaniment to the drink of the gallant.

Sofia often told her that she was better. That she had to fight. That she could defeat her darker self. She reminded her friend of life, who mattered what didn’t , what could be changed and what couldn’t be helped.

 Sofia wanted her to play safe, to not drown or slip. She wanted her to have his head but hold her heart. She was scared for she knew that if she ever had to fall from her  precipice again, she won’t be able to repair herself again.

As sunny days changed to windy afternoon, she saw their relation blossom. This was not a tizzy nerve-racking or nascent relation, Sofia often laughed to herself at how the two could bear each other all day, of how he took her blabber, of how she admired his silence and of how she hung on to him (both literally and figuratively).

How one might think it was a happy ending.

Life as cliché goes, does go on. We’ve all lost someone dear; a grandmother, a parent, a sibling, a lover, a pet and all of us grieve in our own way. Some never shed a tear. Some miss them. Some want them back. Some fight with God. Some become the incident that broke them. There are as many ways as there are people.

When she’d been breaking, all that most did was share a drink and nod at her abuses.

But now they abused her, they abused her of making a doubt, they abused her of dealing with it, they accused her of not loving him from her heart. Sofia didn’t know what was love and what it was. She did not know whether she had loved. She did not know whether her friend had loved. Yet, when Sofia sometimes finds her gazing at his picture, she knows that it was something and someone who mattered.

One never stops grieving a loved one’s death. It’s a part of self. One might decide when they don’t want to show the world, it still hurts. It’s like losing a pet you loved so much. Only harder. Cause there’s hate when you look back. Hate for the loved one who left you. And filth for yourself for ever loving him.

They say that those who leave us, never really leave. They say that one can live by a memory but they also say that they won’t be the ones doing it.

………..

Survivors of suicide or major personal trauma, often look different. They act different. They are scared of loss.And drink a cocktail of emotions every time they sit alone. And the look they get in all those eyes which look at them. The “Oh, poor thing” look. The look which a young man, injured , and unable to walk, gets from people bent over double due to arthritis who were there to listen to ‘Nehru’s Freedom at midnight’ Speech.

There are people who say things. There are people who judge words. There are people who judge actions. They can judge. Of course, they will! For they are not the ones losing a part of themselves every time a word, a gesture, a call, a ringtone, a song that reminds them of their loss rips straight into the head. They are not the ones who can feel another voice when they are listening to another. They are not the ones who talked to the dead. They are the sane ones. They are the ones who will laugh. They are the ones who will question. They are the ones who have an existence as insignificant as to care for someone’s pain only to mock it.

…………

As she saw her mumbling in her sleep that night, when, after weeks, she had a drink, Sofia knew that maybe she was imagining herself over him, her legs around his chest, knife ready to strike but him already dead. The left side of his chest throwing out blood and his heart lying on the doormat beside his left ear. But as Sofia had tried to tell her many times, it was not her fault, maybe he had hit something inside for he had repeatedly abused her, and not only verbally. For him, she was his property. For him, she lived for his whims. She existed to fulfill his rage. Maybe all of his ‘laundas’ were already exasperated. Maybe they did not care enough.

And when enough was enough. And when she told him that it was, he acted out like a petulant teenager, assassinating not only her character but her emotions and all but killing any love she had left in her heart. Maybe movies making fun of girls forget the times when their ‘friends’ listen to them. For hours on an end, when their friends kindly reject their advances. But I’m not a guy so MAYBE I won’t understand.

She had been there when he had flunked himself the first time. She was there with him when he repeated his inadequacy but all he had cared was that she was not his. Thinking of how he was, of what he did, what he often did to her, what he often said to her, of how he hurt her and of how she left him.

Maybe he could not accept failure. Maybe he was scared of what life held for the likes of him.Maybe he cared about what his dad’s friends would say, of what his cousin would make fun, of how the neighbourhood aunty would repeatedly point out the first division grades of both her daughters, maybe he was just a coward.

……….

The odd thing about us is that as I narrate a story of someone far beyond, someone probably most of you did not know well but yet you might have read a lot about by now. Yet were he alive, you won’t have given him any time, any day and her friend, too, would have been just that, a friend.

………..

As Sofia picked her up her pencil, she remembered he’d often call to ask where her friend was, that she’d often check on her, that he’d often use her to get a message through during her fights and even though she’d never acknowledged it, even to herself but she too missed a friend. 

Also, she knew that her friend would never accept it completely. She would often talk to him. She would move on but we never leave those who have left us. Or do we? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looking back

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Photography: Reezan

 

Before you start reading, play your favourite album in the background, just relax and let your heart read.

Ever felt like going back to a place you once lived in, after a long time? Or meeting someone you once loved smittenly?

We turn back to the past in search of home sometimes. We look for refuge in past, especially when things are looking down.

But is the past really all that comforting?

I’d say no.

This weekend I went back to my old home, hoping to feel nostalgic and exhilarated.

My steps didn’t lead me. No, I’ve been there before, down that road. Memories of those days didn’t rush in, I could imagine it though. I felt so unfaithful to those streets.

Many of my readers may not know me well and some may not know me at all, I have lived a traveller’s life, chugging around the country, having been to ten schools, I may say I’ve known too many people but sometimes I feel I don’t know them at all.

Often fighting with my sister for the shadier side as dad drove beside mom to the next quarters we’d call home, I recollect places with different kinds of men, different accents, different climes, hoping I’d find friends as good as I made in the last two years.

Moving a lot, I often feel, has shaped and moulded me into what I today am (not that I’m much), I have now, for the first time(in my memory), stayed in one place for a whole Complete Government Tenure. I sometimes feel scared of the tranquility. I miss packing, unpacking, discovering people, forging new friendships and the regular changes in the local delicacies.

I do love the breeze, the sky (what I can see of it) ain’t half bad too, it could’ve been clearer though.

If you’ve lived in as many cities as I have, most of you’d hate being on a move and whine no end about losing friends, missing groups, of falling in and out of love, missing who you once dated and hating yourself for missing the cad and how at the next station, probably 1500 miles away, you might have wondered (when you were 14) whether the wide-eyed badminton ace who sometimes got defeated (maybe by design) was still defeating ladies with his smash and smile technique, about life getting unsettled, about wanting to know a particular place, about having to leave behind the wildcat you tamed, and about the dog who followed you all when you left the house.

You too ,probably ,would’ve constantly tried to rebel against the periodical changing of lodgings and the consistent rocking but you’d want to sob inside your quilt all night, knowing in your heart that you don’t have a choice and also that this change over too would not break you too bad.

You’d have told uncle that you hated him and as you grew up, you hated his job, silently feeling proud of what he was doing. You might feel uncertain about wanting to help your mom in the packing and you, probably would’ve joined after she gave you one of her tired glances.

Your heart will break as you carefully remove the graffiti for your next bedroom as you leave the room for the last time to never enter again, you pull down the “Do not enter” Spongebob poster.

I sometimes miss cities too and sometimes more than people.

When the quarter long packing stint finally end, you still wish the station adieu as last building of the city fly by.

You’d still be grumpy about changing your familiar yesterday for an unknown tomorrow. When you’d go to the bathroom you’d miss those all night chats, the orange plant you’d grown on your terrace garden and when you’d finally settle down in your new lodgings you’d probably be very quick at remembering how mum arranged everything. You’d miss sleeping on the sofa while you watched late night movies alone at home and you’d miss school the next day to catch up on the trigonometry you should be been doing as you watched “Pretty Woman” the last night and of course you’d want to stay fresh for the evening, for that is when you went cycling.

You too probably would have looked at all the rooms one last time. You too probably tried to capture the surrounding in your brain.

 So what your parents never allowed you to complain of homesickness. You at least clicked pictures, have numbers of all your friends with whom you exchanged texts with, frequently. You’d hope your destination would have a larger sauna and better competition on the court.

However much you feel you hate your parents, you too would’ve hugged mum back as she kissed you goodnight in the your room.

Maybe being on a move has taught me to look ahead with hope. There were also classes about how to look back with a smile, not a subject I seem to have mastered.

When I was younger I used to tell my mom how my best friend has studied in the same school for all her life. I told her how I want to grow up in a city in the same house, same street. I told her how I’d never be able to see these houses we lived in, that I’m leaving a piece of myself behind. My brother (if he was around) would chide me for wanting to be so boring.

For the longest time, I had an urge to retrace my childhood when I suddenly realised it was not in those homes but what I remembered of them.

But then I grew out of it, eventually.

It’s been years now. And the chances of me having to go back to Central schools is remoter than the chance the opposition has at the next election.

I did go back to an old home once. I saw how there was a new grill door at my old place, how the balcony grew tulips, how the under construction squash court shone like the arena for the squash world cup finals, how where there had been holes, young kids , now, jostled against each other to score the next goal.

Sometimes I feel all those places I’ve lived in, all those people I’ve met, all those holidays I’ve went on, maybe all of them took something they gave.

I like to believe that a part of me has always attached itself to all the places I’ve lived in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Picking up music from fellow beings…

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Image by Aniruddho Majumder

I was just looking for a song to play last night (bedtime ritual) and saw Somebody I used to know by Gotye on suggestions. Only then a weird thought occurred to me: we pick up music from people in a way, it becomes a part of our memory, sometimes it may even land up in our playlist.

Every relationship, I like to believe, has a song. Sometimes a certain track reminds us of a person we dated. Right?

Remember how in Best of Me, a Sparks’ movie, Amanda tells Dawson that they need to have a song. You would realise how having a song is not an exaggerated necessity when I tell you of Amanda who tunes in the radio knowing how remote the chances of finding a frequency at the guest house in a far-flung forest are. Although, in the movie, Sweet Jane by Cowboy Junkies is the song that plays up and goes on to become their song (to which they even dance to, half-naked!). I know how awfully romantic that is!!!

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When I was in school, my cousin influenced me to listen to Linkin Park and Akon like crazy! Being a ‘rebel without a cause’ sixth grader, all I knew at the time was that my debating goalkeeper of a brother, who was friends and I suspected more with some of the girls he told me about, in school listens to this and I felt I had to do the same. There was no question of not liking any of the 500 tracks he’d transferred to my MP4 Player, the summer we stopped trying to gouge out each others eyes. Although I admit not liking You found me by The Fray at that time (I love it now though, affirming brother mine’s taste).

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Fast forward…

The other day, I was suggesting songs to a party friend and he was pleasantly surprised I listen to Everly Brothers (You are, too!), another of my mom’s many influences.

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My best memories involve mum humming along, while playing songs from her favourite cassette titled “Songs I love (English)” which had Beetles, Leo Sayer, Backstreet Boys etc. She also played Bacardi Blast a lot, which had all those 90s party songs from Asereje to Mambo No 5 (Yes mom’s cooler than me!).

I still remember being always being tortured by the hours of Antakshari played by my grandparents, parents, aunt especially my irksome brother (did/does he not know he has a car horn for a voice?). Even though I hated the songs with a vengeance then, today I understand their charm.

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There are songs I pick and obsess over for weeks (and forget) while some carve a niche into my heart and stay in my playlist forever. One such bad boy is Apocalypse by Cigarettes after Sex. I somehow found this song myself. To amuse myself or in search of a muse, this is a song I use.

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What’s more absurd is that one can pick up a whole genre from fellow beings! One of my friends has started listening to Jazz way too much, and he kinda blames/thanks me for that.

I wasn’t an Ariana fan (or even a listener for that matter!) few years ago. I’d only play  her successful duets on Top 40 with Ryan Seacrest! It is my roommate (a badass bihari) who plays her songs every morning! Listening to same numbers for last 2 years, nowadays , I groove to them more than she does.

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She picked up Inna and Lana Del Ray from me (I tried to sell them to others, my oh-so-unkind brother told me they sounded like banshees!). It’s funny that I don’t listen to these anymore (there was a phase when I used to start my day with Sun is Up or Be my lover), but now while my roommate plays their songs I sometimes zone-out into my peppy childhood favourites.

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That’s what music does to us! I’ve traded Someone New for Someone Like YouHabits for Carnival Of Rust,  More than Friends for FriendsA Certain Softness for Blurred Lines and Low for A Higher Place.

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I like to go with the cliché “You can tell a lot about a person by what’s on their playlist”. Though the liberal me would want to argue that playlists get modified, deleted or ignored and you can only make out what a person is feeling at a point of time rather than how they are, in whole. A playlist (new/old) is influenced by thoughts and tastes, all of which define a person.

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At the end of the day, music is one of the ways you can get to know a person better. Next time you need to touch someone’s heart-strings, look into the most played songs on her playlist!

“The-in-betweens”

 

Do you, at times, wonder if time passes way too slower than it normally does?

It’s the “in-betweens” that make things extraordinarily static; the time taken to think of doing something great, phase after a relationship has ended, time you’re waiting for job interview results or the time when you’re unsure of where life is taking you. Atleast I like to call these moments(which seem to be never-ending), “in-betweens”!

If you’re an artist you probably hate the time you’re off your creative cycle and are waiting to feel inspired again. It feels steep low when compared to the thrill you feel after making psych art!

In relationships, too, we feel this way. It gets so monotonous that we almost take each other for granted unless something reminds us how lucky we are.

All those movie buffs out there would know how devastating it is to watch the last episode of the new series you started, and feel like there’s no better job to do in this whole world.

From as young as I remember, I used to dread the time in between taking a nice shower and getting out to start the day (when I’d be all wrapped in my towel , staring at the mirror, hitting existential crisis!). I was terrified of this space so much so that I picked on the habit of getting dressed in my room rather than the bathroom.

Maybe the fact that the “in-betweens” are so depressing is what makes us aim for things that keep us up at night. Maybe in-betweens, just as much, are a part of the mood cycle we go through and it’s because of these, that we value the good times the way we do.

If you find this blog relatable or have experiences that you’d like to tell, please comment below!