“What! Fifteen rupees?! Just when I said ten rupees-”
“Look here, do you want the tomatoes?”
“Ey, Shanta! Tomato mao?”
“Tida tao, tida tao!”
“To tomato lagbe?”
“Na, ja chai ney neychi.”
A hand-cart pulls up beside us and we shuffle a few steps onto the footpath to make room for it.
I follow my grandparents through the streets around Lake Market. My grandfather’s face gets harder to read and his temper more unpredictable as he grows older. My grandparents bicker often, like they do over the colour of toast they prefer, but it is easy to see that there is still a fondness in their sixty years of marriage – a sort of fondness that is apparent in its absence in the marriage of my own parents.
Toast grows cold when it is left uneaten on empty tables, and there is no background chatter of Kolkata’s heat to drown out the silence of Bangalore.
Waking up today,
the view from this small window
repeats the same tale.
With another day,
Another piece of the woods
Is lost forever.
Walking home alone
pink blossoms beneath my feet
cry under dusk’s light.
The ceiling fan turns
the still summer air slowly ,
under the dim light.
In this dark a night,
the moon is too insolent,
to shine fast and bright.
It’s like the rumbling beneath the surface of the earth, below the persistence of the roots of trees and hands of man in this fight with the wind.
The slow movement of tectonic plates echos in this deep rumbling within my skin. It is pinned to my sleeves and has bleached the colour of the clothes I’ve worn for three days now. It is so much a part of me that it is easy to forget that is here.
It is easy to live above the surface in an untethered state of blindness.
It is easy to pierce the bubble and anchor me to the truth.
The drills screech and burrow deep by the highway and the deafening roar of this beast rolls around in choppy waves. I can hear nothing but the tide crashing against solid shore.
I seek comfort in the silver light of the snake in the dark night to swim.
At some point, I could no longer recognise my hands as my own, but as my mother’s. While I was too lost trying to claim life mine and fit it into my palm, the back of my hands grew veins and knuckles that I only recognise from snatches of memories in tense movement. I recognise it with an involuntary fear. I recognise it with a flinch.
There’s a chance the change will spread and it’ll happen when I’m not looking. Like adisease, I will find that my face is no longer my own, my soul is no longer my own, what I built on my own.
Bit by bit I will turn into the failure she always said she was, she always said I was destined to be. She never said the words that ran through both of our minds, that it’s in the blood that she has given to me, in the genes that it carried.
A fate written, to be passed unhindered in its course by whatever might with which we may try to change it.
She never said it, but no feminist can dare say it. She forces on us women’s lib but never believed it. Its ironic, because all of us believed it but her.
Bit by bit I will turn from daddy’s girl to mamma’s girl, as society sees it.
“Its never the father’s fault when the child fails, its the mother’s.”
Society said it, she said it, but neither knows why.
There’s a fear that haunts me as I keep moving, a fear that I will one day recognise myself as nothing but parts of her.
I dream of hands pounding my back and face in the night, and wake with the sound of thunder in my chest that has followed me since I can remember.
You’re at it again.
Constantly whispering in my ear words which make my heart warm and clasping me to the comfort of your slow breathing as you sleep, wrapping us in the duvet that hasn’t been washed in three weeks.
I would too, if I weren’t constantly thinking of how wrong it is that I feel so safe and goddamn happy with you, because you’re not real.
You’re an idea of everything I need to breathe, but for the next ten years I’ve been banned from it. You’re a collection of memories I’ve kept for when I’ll finally be free from not being myself.
So, I must now close these six tabs of you on my computer, erase the lines of your face on the back of my project report and silence your voice singing me a song of glorious utopia.
Yes, you, art. Stop it, I cant let you in at the moment.
Leave a message at the tone.
I’m not much.
Do I want to be anything more?
Sitting here, not wanting or feeling is enough.
I cant make my sister smile when she desperately walks into my room, saying nothing, sitting on the bed and then walking away when I fail.
I like a bit of poetry. I like a bit of jazz. I like a bit of politics. I like finding new things.
I like a silly dick joke.
I like reading about my history and your history.
I like intelligence, but I can’t sit in a room full of the city’s intelligentsia. I know, I tried.
Here, have me unabashedly talk about myself in this manner.
A fish bone got stuck in my throat yesterday and we had to spend 2000 rupees to get it out.
I’m worried I won’t get into college, and if I do then I’ll be worried about the tuition because my father will pay more than I deserve.
This is me.
I spent another 2000 bucks to calm my paranoia with an x-ray and consultation, only for the doctor to say there’s nothing in my throat.
But you don’t understand, there is.
I like London. I like the Houses of Parliament. I like Buckingham palace. But I cannot love them, for in the hour it takes to reach there on the green line from Hounslow, I forget why I like them .
There is no England I know without Slough, and to forget that makes me upset. To want to forget that makes me angry.
Sitting here is enough, but I am not. I want to do things, exciting things. I want to be great. I want more, but I don’t want it enough. I sit among giants but I am not one of them. I am the audience to conversations like radio programmes of familiar voices hundreds of miles away at the broadcasting centre of my living room. I am there, but I am not.
This is my application and this is why I do not send it.
I write this in the hours that follow today afternoon, the last minutes of which I spent with a glass of cranberry juice and eight minutes of John Coltrane under the sun, a break from the busy monotony of doing nothing.
There’s a sweetness in the familiarity of your face, like the sugar I can feel dragging the coffee down my throat. Its warm. I run my hands all over your nose and lips, fingers over you arched eyebrows and cheeks, and it feel like strolling through the streets of this city we moved out from a decade ago. This place is more special to me than it is to anyone else, but that is a secret only I am privy to.
Yes, this is a place I know. The smile is new, but I don’t mind it altogether. Change comes, I guess.
I see the grandfather from last Thursday and grin. He does not. He is not my grandfather.
It rains in fitful temper. The scent of the first spring rain hits the earth. A sharp metallic odour rises sixteen floors to where we are arranged around a dining table to act out today’s play of domesticity.
Running through the familiar roads and tracks of tears to your chin, reading this map trying to find you again, you make me want to love life here where I cannot live. I’m looking for you but I can’t remember where I left you last.