You’re not alone, stranger

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Dear stranger who wonders why,

It was just another morning of bleary eyes peering into a can of coffee – dark-roasted and ground, and absent. I’d forgotten to get a new pack, again. The coffee machine stood waiting, mocking me like mom does, minus her tinge of affection, over my forgetfulness. At the mercy of habit, i dragged my reluctant feet to a cafe two blocks away. Fingers anxiously tapping the counter, i ordered my cup of morning addiction and waited. Whether it was the aroma of the beans, that purportedly began their journey on the hills of Chikmagalur and ended in hot water in a Delhi cafe, or the sight of you picking cuticles of finger skin while gazing out of the window, I couldn’t tell, but the golden morning suddenly seemed to seep in.

I could tell that you were hurting. Not from the skin-bruising, but from the questions that squabbled for space in your mind, and on your notebook’s last page. As the wind played peekaboo with the covert content of your moleskin journal, I could only make out crooked question marks at the end of each thought that seemed to run into another on its way to a possible closure. I could not see what they were, or what they demanded of you. But i watched their contours reflect on your pale forehead, creases which you ironed with a facade which smiled at the waiter, the girl on the counter and the old man on the next table. It’s only when you stared into the vacuum of life beyond the window stained by last night’s rain that the furrows sneaked out from behind your courtesy.

I recognize the abyss when I see it, stranger; I remember the fall all too clearly. The open page, which you reaffirmed against the breeze every now and then, waited for its second word, the first being a large, conspicuous WHY followed by a serpentine symbol that passed for a punctuation mark. A bookmark gathered dust at the edges, pressed between pages of a novel overdue. The half-full cup of coffee had long given up its attempts at seizing your attention and the stranger across the cafe could not concentrate on his. You were a reflection for him, of months gone by without a single straight thought. You were him, on grey rainy days and those marred by too bright a sun. You were his image, on hazy mirrors that clung to cobweb-riddled walls much like you clutched your questions. They won’t run away; they never do, stranger. They need you as much as you, them.

To question your existence, its purpose, and everything around it, is the greatest question ever asked, to me at least. And sadly one that comes with no promise of an answer. I have spent far too many days gritting my teeth over the anxiety of not knowing Why, stranger. I have turned far too many whimsical, intuitive corners in search of that one answer which lies just round the next one. And always round the next one. I have missed far too many beautiful sights on the way; lost touch with far too many places i called home. I have let go of many i could have walked with, albeit slower, and have sped past many others i could have loved. I continue to run on the same rugged path, believing my choice at that fork long gone did not just conform to an inspiring poem but will also lead me to a purpose served. But I’ve slowed down, stranger. Perhaps the answer isn’t waiting for you and me somewhere beyond the horizon; perhaps it lies in the very steps we take. Maybe, just maybe, it lies in the trail of dents we leave behind.

I hope you got the fresh cup of hot coffee, peppered with chocolate sprinkles, and the note I left with it. I hope you always remember… You’re a beautiful person in a magical world. And that you’re not alone when you drown in the despair of your existence. The only answer to it, i feel, is to love madly: not just the next boy you fall for, but everything from the cup of coffee on your table, the musings of another existentialist which outlived him and made it to your desk, the stray dog who rubs his snout against your palm, and the first sun rays that perch on your eyelids at dawn to that magnificent reflection in the mirror, replete with all its unique scars. All perfection is alike, stranger, but art comes from aberrations.

Until another magical morning,
The boy in the grey hoodie

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Dear Women, All Men Aren’t Assholes

Disclaimer: This post addresses a certain section of women, and talks about a certain category of men. It does not generalize about sexes. In fact, it seeks to counter certain generalized notions about them which need to be thrown out of the window.

Of late, I have witnessed (and experienced) more heartbreaks than I ever thought I would. All a part of growing up and coming to terms with reality, they tell me. But what has been most surprising is the depth of emotion I have seen the males in these relationships display and the cold, calculative manner in which the ‘better halves’ have gone about the breaking-up business. I grew up being fed the generalization that women tend to be the more emotional ones, and men the jerks, capable of emotion only when it came to sport. The truth could not be farther.

For those girls out there who keep whining about there not being ‘any good men’, I have news for you: We exist. And we’re better than your limited understanding of men lets you imagine. And we take offence every time you post a sweeping generalization that starts with “All men…”. You are looking for him with the wrong criteria in your head, or maybe he’s right where you left him: In the friendzone, possibly still waiting for you to get your priorities straight. While you went about getting attracted to a charming smile or a cool hairdo or leather jackets on bikes or an aloof attitude, he was right there – sitting next to you in class, sharing his lunch, texting you all day, lending you his favourite books, actually listening to you, wiping your tears on every heartbreak, or just staring from across the hall without the courage to come up and talk.

Of late, I have come across some of the most disturbing dating advice and even worse definitions of all-things-love from some female friends. “Why get so involved and mushy in relationships? You’re young, go out there, use your devices, and have fun! Girls love to date a guy who treats them at a fancy place, buys them drinks!” chirped a female friend concerned over my latest relationship being torn apart by the other half. As much as I’d like to use my ‘devices’, contrary to popular perception, sex is not the only reason we’d get into a relationship. It’s not the topmost reason either. When a groom-hunting friend was asked, out of curiosity, what she was looking for, the first criterion thrown at me was an outrageous annual salary. For the women who fall in these categories, yes, we don’t exist. Not for you. Thankyouverymuch!

To define our critically-endangered species, and to burst the bubble of those who choose to believe we went extinct with your dads’ generation, here’s how we work:

We are hopeless romantics at heart but we may never say it in as many words. We love a happily-ever-after and want it as much as you do. Some of us, despite numerous reality-checks, have also managed to hold on to the belief of a ‘soulmate’ but we’re on the brink. Push us too far and we’ll lose it.

Yes, we might be instinctively and briefly attracted towards great bodies and beautiful faces owing to our anatomical wiring, but what really holds our attention and draws us in are great conversations, witty retorts, self-confidence, kindness, a certain amount of intellect, a unique opinion, an eccentric soul who is not afraid to be herself.

When we’re in a relationship, we don’t cheat on our girls. It’s difficult to think of another while you’re so deeply in love with a person. To set the record straight once and for all, we don’t think of you as fat unless you keep pointing at yourself and saying it over and over again. In fact, it hardly matters to us if you gained two or lost a few. We wouldn’t notice; we’re too busy looking at the way you’ve made your hair today, or the fact that your eyes keep going to a certain pair of shoes at a store and making a mental note of surprising you with it on the next big day (and probably about saving up for them.)

We might make fun of you when you cry in a movie, it’s simple diversion- our way of hiding the fact that it affects us too; you should see us watching it alone or reading a tragic love story- we’re busy blinking back some of our own.

We love to get you flowers, or balloons, or the random accessory you mentioned on a phone call – anything that makes your face light up. We love to try our hand at art. Even if we might end up making something really sloppy, we want it to convey something to you. Read the thought behind it, we’ll get better at the technique. Needless to say, we can be charming as hell, but we reserve that side for the ones who love us despite us, or better, for being us. Ask our best friends.

If you just look past the first few pages of inappropriate doodles and careless ink blotches in our notebooks, you’ll see a romantic poem reveal itself, and quotes from books you wouldn’t have heard of. If you just get past the top shelf of our DVDs, underneath the Avengers and the Transformers and the A-team, you will discover a RomCom collection that will beat yours. Before you question the placement, ask yourself: Why would a guy, in a world with such a skewed perception of masculinity, admit his favourite movie of all time is ‘Before Sunrise’? How will he not fake-scoff at a Nicholas Sparks mention, when the whole world, including the woman who he seeks to woo, believes that that genre of books/movies is not for the testosterony? This does not mean we do not actually enjoy indulging in crass humour or computer-graphics-enabled nihilism as is the perception. We do. (We don’t judge you for spending half your salary on a handbag or gossiping about each others’ love-lives either). We love those typically-boyish indulgences. But believe me- as much as we like to defeat the evil forces of the Universe on a computer screen, we also like kicking back with a John Green novel every now and then.

You think you have it tough living up to a societal perception of feminineness? Try being a man, experiencing loss and holding back your tears. Try getting dumped by the love of your life for “no fault of yours” and being asked by friends to move on to the ‘other fish in the sea’ while your whole world crumbles inside you. More often than not, we have it equally bad, if not worse.

And before you assume all of these guys I just described must be taken: Ironically, most us are single. Why, you ask? I have lost count of how many times I have seen a female friend reject the nice guy, choose the jerk, and then whine about “All Men” being “Assholes”.

“He doesn’t get me flowers!”, “He doesn’t care when I’m angry”, “He doesn’t listen to me”. Well, you kicked out the one who would have done it all. It’s time you cut out the hypocrisy or deal with the consequences of your choice. And whatever you do, stop generalizing.

  • To the girl who dumped someone for being ‘too nice’ (I know a poor chap who got that) or for ‘loving you too much’ (I actually got that one), you deserve the person you chose for yourself. Good luck!
  • To the one who thinks you haven’t come across one of us, look closer. We’re all around. This article and the comments beneath are evidence. Also, notice the authors of some of your favourite romantic novels. Guess what? Men!
  • To the girl who fell for the nice guy, hold on to him and he’ll give you the world. You deserve every thing you get – stop feeling you don’t give back enough (I keep hearing that). He loves you for being you, and there’s no other way he would have it.
  • To those of you who are looking for Ian Somerhalder’s grin, or Enrique’s exotic accent, or Channing Tatum’s abs, or the Hemsworth brothers’ faces, or worse – a fictional character like Mr Darcy – in guys, I hope you get men who possess all those things. (Hey, the superficial ones need to spawn their next generation too!) The concept of true love will, sadly, remain a mystery to you. [Before you vent spite, consider what you think of men who drool over Internet pictures of Megan Fox and bodyshame you for not looking ‘perfectly shaped’. Why wouldn’t a guy feel the same way when compared to a model and shamed? Yes, bodyshaming and objectification happen both ways and hurt both genders. Sorry to burst that bubble.]
  • Lastly, to the fellow gentlemen who belong to this league I proudly take the liberty of representing in this post: It’s a ridiculous time to be alive and in love. But, hang in there! (Also, did you check out the latest Call of Duty? It’s awesome!)

– An unapologetic romantic