Silk

What are we
But waves abandoned
On a silken shore,
Feverish in our attempts
To find home.

What is love
But this pristine
Silence
Between vowels frothing
At the lips of nameless lands.

I found mine in you-
The belonging of a nomad
To a castle of sand.

~ Sumeet

A class in nostalgia

For starters, let me confess something. I enjoy the occasional drink of nostalgia. I indulge in the melancholy that memories bring. Perhaps that is why i sometimes seek out places that exhume moments long gone by. They may not even have been among the best times i’ve had, but if i remember them and the emotions associated strongly enough, revisiting them feels a bit like time travel.

So, to relish a slice of a long forgotten past that was bound to sting the tongue, I set out for my school, St. Xavier’s High, one of three i attended in my life. (However, this was the only one i had managed to get attached to.) It had been 12 years since i had been there, since i had walked out of Class 10 thinking i’d just passed my toughest exam. So I anticipated the bout of nostalgia, almost looked forward to it. But i hadn’t expected the stage of my childhood to have stayed almost entirely the same, thereby enshrining those days. Right from the colour of the walls where i once busted my knee while chasing a friend over a joke, to the basketball court which back then felt like the only happy spot in the school, to the notice board which once hosted my first (and atrociously lame) poem, and even the tree fences that we sat on during breaks, everything had retained its composition – as if saved for this very moment when i’d visit, my adult disguise betrayed by a pair of moist eyes.

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I often wonder why we miss it, the past. Is it because our present does not match up to it? Hardly. I’m lucky enough to say most of the things in my present are of my choosing, and hence make me very happy. Close friends who are insanely understanding, a mind that knows its thoughts from its emotions, freedom to live on my own terms – a lot has changed, for the better. So what exactly do i miss when i sit in my old classroom with a broken window that overlooks the basketball ground? Why do i miss the yearning, when, now, i am no longer bound by class rules and don’t have to wait for the tolling of the bell for a shot at the hoop?

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Maybe it’s not the yearning we miss. Maybe we don’t miss the place at all, but who we were while we inhabited it. The kid who sat gazing out of Class IX B didn’t exactly like being there; he was full of doubts and wishes, but was also full of life. He had no bad memories to recall, only an unshakable belief in a gleaming future; he had no money to call his own, but he also never worried about paychecks and bills; he never had the freedom to play at will, but when he was on the court in the ‘Games period’, he ran like the world depended on it; he had no qualms about his own existence and its purpose; he had no cynicism to rob him of his faith; he had no real nightmares, just ones of monsters that didn’t exist.

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Maybe I didn’t visit the school at all today, maybe i just visited me. The 10-year-old introvert who was equal parts excited and scared shifting to a “tough school” in Class 6 but eventually made the exams look easy, who spent every day looking forward to the basketball game at the end (and sulked on those that didn’t end in the sports period), who worried about his grades but only on the last day, who sneaked a glance at his crush in every ‘recess’ and believed love would find a way (and heartbreaks wouldn’t). Maybe for one day, i had the itch to bend the space-time continuum and inhabit that boy who believed, without a speck of doubt, that his life would be grand, and whose biggest worry was if he would grow tall enough. Maybe i wanted to find my way back to a peculiar version of happiness which was unadulterated by reality.

And I found it lying untouched, in a class cupboard that still smells of moss and childhood secrets.

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Last seen: Too long ago

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Does he caress your hair
Before ravaging your skin?
Does he bring you flowers,
The tulips you love?
Does he read each thought
As it leaves the recesses of your mind
And lingers on your brooding eyes
For a stolen moment in time
Like dew on a winter leaf?

Does it rain nostalgia in Paris
When i write of us here?

Once upon a time, again..

1978, London

His suit could put the mayor to shame,

The windsor knot’s perfect symmetry

Is adjusted again, all the same.

She looks lovely, after all,

In her flowing lavender dress.

The handshake is firm… Too firm?

His anxiety has a tough grip.

Soul aquiver with nerves,

Heart on the edge of a cliff,

He reaches across the table –

Rosewood born in India –

To hold her hand, like in the fables.

Painted in the soft glow

Of a candle fleet,

Her skin is pregnant with perfume

Of rain on cobbled grey streets.

The beloved is more assured –

Allowing his winter fingers

To linger

Where men have perished to reach.

She knows he’s the one

When they first swing,

Untrained feet, unwavering eyes,

To Clapton’s strings;

His whispers confide

To her waiting curls –

She looks wonderful tonight.

2015, New Delhi

Struck by a bullet

At the strike of the millennium,

Thrust into a new world,

He’s, yet again, a boy of 15.

He sits across blushing pink cheeks,

Oblivious of the hue of her eyes,

The secrets under her skin,

And a song about fireflies.

Adept fingers move swiftly,

Fidgety feet tap around her toes

In anxiety still.

’What’s with the network here?’

He mumbles to empty spaces

Lit by a ghostly glow

Of his gadget sweetheart.

The paramour is more impatient still,

Pout. Click. Share.

Wait. . .

Loading. . .

‘Feeling wonderful on a date’ –

Her profile is about to say.

He will like it, of course.

They are no more a hushed secret,

Stolen glances, or a dance slow.

Magic is a notion scoffed at;

Love’s a myth on show.

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