Reuniting With Myself

Thirty-two years is a long time.

They say that every seven years the human body is essentially new (all cells being replaced, in that span; not entirely accurate, but it’s a good thought). By this theory, I have been renewed a little over four times, since I left my school in Goa, for another one in Bombay. It wasn’t only me, all my friends from then, have changed exactly that many times. Some dread lingered after I confirmed that I’d attend the school reunion.

Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 1 INS Hansa, Vasco-da-Gama, Goa, India

Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 1 INS Hansa, Vasco-da-Gama, Goa, India

In 1985 we didn’t have many tools to save memories. We either remembered them or wrote it down on paper. Of the cells in our body, brain cells are the one’s that last a lifetime, and if they do die, they don’t regenerate (Don’t worry, there’s always new research around the corner that says otherwise).

For a month before the reunion, all of us 40-somethings, were connected online, seeking lost fragments of half-broken memories to make them whole. We only had one physical reference — the annual class photo — to help us. The rest of it, we had to seek from our randomly connected neurons; from disused and discarded pathways. Slowly, it started coming back together; some memories we recalled; for the rest we trusted our friends’ authority. But this wasn’t true about all our memories. A select few were sharp, very sharp: those of adventures, discoveries, punishments, and of course – first crushes.

*

It was an agonising wait for 9th June. The suspense hung suspended like smog in New Delhi. Who would I meet? The vaguely familiar 13-year-olds or the vaguely unfamiliar 40-somethings? What would I say? What would they say? What would they remember? There was a motley crowd of questions commuting in my head, but none of them, strong enough to trample on my resolve to attend.

The bag was packed two days before. Finally, the airport. Flight’s on time. So far. For some events, you leave nothing to chance. Plan well. I reach the airport two hours earlier than I should have. Nothing; nothing should be left to chance. Am waiting at the gate. Not much to do. Update Facebook status:

Reached airport two hours early. I know it doesn’t affect when the aircraft will take off. Don’t remember the last time I was so excited. Meeting friends from thirty-two years ago, does that to you, I guess. Friendships forged in classrooms and playgrounds. Helping each other in study and games. Those long conversations that were dense with imagination. That very awkward age of being thirteen. That display of solidarity during class punishments. The giggly responses to the newly discovered double-entrende.

The love declaration in the last page of the notebook and the vigorous scratching of it.

The white-haired, pot-bellied, balding boys; and the beautiful girls of that class are going to relive it all. Entry is by invitation only, else you would also get to see 13yr old 45-somethings.

It starts raining. Flight’s delayed. Thankfully, only 15 minutes. The seasoned air-traveller who pays for the aisle seat has chosen the window. There’s a promise of something wonderful on the other side of this one hour and fifteen minutes. The clouds told me.

Taking off from Bengaluru Airport

Taking off from Bengaluru Airport

finally am there. Five minutes in, I see that everything and everyone has changed. Except the love. That’s as intact as it was three decades ago. There is, however, one surreal dissonance: all of my friends look very different from how I remember them; but they are the same 13-year old kids I had parted from. The smiles, the words, the jokes, everything – was how it was, then. One by one, we all trickle in. It’s the same with everyone. It takes each of us less than five minutes to establish identities (often by recalling something absolutely stupid that we had done).

The reunion of Kendriya Vidyalaya No. 1, INS Hansa, Vasco-da-Gama, Goa, was ON.

Without any delay, the collective memories were laid out as Exhibit No. 1, 2, 3, … You get the picture. Sheepish and naughty references began floating around. Ah, well, boys will be boys, though, technically, they were all men. I was a compliant and participating member, but the dissonance didn’t leave me. Late at night, we finally settled down for a conversation so that the one with most of his neurons intact, would remind us how much of our memories were real; how many were imagined.

Then, the girls joined.

Long-forgotten pubescent awkward silence enveloped the boys in the room. There was some conversation, yes. I think the girls were somewhat disappointed with our inability to gossip in their presence.

My Classroom - Right of Centre

My Classroom – Right of Centre

Hangovers and emotions are never good, when they arrive together. It’s Saturday morning now. We are in our school. Needless to say much has changed. Then, we just had a barbed-wire fence. Now there are 10-feet walls. Dissonance. Then we had just two parallel building. Now it’s a square of four buildings. But my classrooms are there. It’s vacation, so the rooms are closed. But I peep in through the high windows. I recall where I sat, where my BFF sat, where my crush sat. A movie plays. The abstract kind. Part memory, part imagination, part dream. Hangovers and emotions are good when the arrive together. You can use one to hide the other. Most of my reunion-mates assume I am hungover. Works for me. I see across from my classroom to the building opposite. My sister’s class. Every time I was in trouble, she was summoned to ensure that the complaint reached home.

We walked the corridors of yore. Then, as if drawn by an old magnet, we were drawn and stood in the middle of the assembly ground. Aligned ourselves perfectly. Without a warning, without a signal, without a plan, without a prompt, strict in attention, we sang the National Anthem. If I ever had to explain hive mind, this would be it. Not one of us was surprised or taken aback. It felt as natural as breathing. Any hesitation or apprehension I had felt in the month before this day was quelled, without a fight.

National Anthem - At School - KV INS Hansa

National Anthem – At School – KV INS Hansa

And the rest of the day passed in much fun and frolic. The evening was one of the best since I can long remember. No, I am not telling any more. (Some of my juvenile friends may read this!) I retired happy. Especially for someone who could manage only four awkward and useless phrases for those two years, a long time ago. I forget, even, what the words were. But it matters not, anymore. I may have forgotten the words, but not the sense, not what I felt. What I alone, felt.

Three decades is a lifetime, if you think of it. There’s so much water under the bridge, the landscape has changed. So have the cells of our eyes. Everything is different now. We’ve been renewed four times over. Life is different. And it is still beautiful as ever.

*

Sunday was shocking. The sun behind the rainy clouds was teasing us, chuckling almost, telling us it was all over. We wasted no time, though. We jumped right back on to the fun-wagon. Much fun was had. Even though it was a dry-day (elections). With all who were there, we made the best of the little remaining time. Then, one-by-one came the goodbyes. Tearful, but I shed not one, then. I am a late-bloomer, I guess.

Today is my day, when the floodgates open.

It was a good reunion. With friends from long ago. It was also a reunion with my self. A discovery, an acknowledgement, a sense of being. A sense, beyond words. The best way to discover ourselves, is when we are with others.

This is a public post, so I won’t take your names, but you know who you are. All of you in Goa who arranged everything to perfection. The rest of you who came from far and wide, and all of you for so much of love, that I find hard to contain.

Good positive vibes, as you said.

Wish I Were Here! And There Too!

Cloning would seem the most obvious solution. But it’s definitely not.

A situation arose today. I wanted to be at a place. But I also had to be elsewhere. Not that I didn’t want to be (that) elsewhere. I wanted to be there too. If I had over-thought – I could have chosen one of the places. They are 1007 kms apart. I had good reason to be at both places. I wanted to be at both places. Needless to say, I had to choose. A few months ago, this wasn’t so difficult. I would have just left. It is becoming difficult by the day.

The Matrix

Cloning would seem the most obvious solution. But it’s definitely not.

Because I would not be the receiver of both the experiences. Clones do not have a common sense of experience, do they? No, cloning would not solve it. Nothing will, in fact. That’s perhaps, what makes up life and life experiences. I don’t know it yet, but I am better for it. Not that I made a “right” choice — in this case, it wasn’t about right and wrong. It was simple: I wanted both. And the other thing was simpler: I couldn’t have both. It was only a life lesson.

If you were here, with me, my smile would have confounded you.

Writing Rigour

I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing. – Agatha Christie

That’s the headline of a blog that I have followed for a while. For a few years now, the blog has been defunct; not the blogger. I met the blogger today; very much alive. Said blogger stopped blogging a few years ago. What’s the point, she said. When she stopped blogging, she did not explicitly ask this question. I know another blogger who did the same. She perhaps was asking different questions. I actually know of a third blogger. He stopped blogging too. His question — I have no idea. He went to the extent of deleting his blog. It must have been serious.

I have, I will confess, considered not blogging. But for the life of me, I could never consider deleting my blog. Good or bad, I cannot deny that this has been an integral part of my life. That, some of the followers of my blog bring up posts from several years ago in a conversation, is reason enough. (I tried doing an April Fool gag; fell flat on my face). There was a time when I wrote words that everyone most people liked. That’s not the case, now.

Not that words are foreign. They are still mine. I recognise them just like before. Just that the way they want to be together is unlike how they’d gather like obedient children; earlier. Perhaps, I am not a shepherd of words. Perhaps words shepherd me. Perhaps, that is why some of my recent posts are shite. Or, I have lost the ability to shepherd. The shepherding, notwithstanding — the words are mine and I am of words.

We have just lost the rhythm.

All I need, is to go to the dance floor that isn’t patronized by any one any more and do my silly dance. Where no one will see me. Where neither my words, nor I will care.  Salsa with adjectives and Samba with verbs. The apocalyptic dance. One writer in the world; no reader left. Is a writer made of readers or is a writer made of writing? Will a writer write if there is no one left to read? What defines a writer? The writing, or the readers?

*

I told her today, my writing, in recent times, has achieved heights of mediocrity, not knowing, if that is a sense of achievement. But I have to write. Not because you will read. Not because you will like it. I have to write, because I have to write. Scribble.

125659: Wall Grunge

*

No writer, if she can, should give up writing. Because every writer knows one thing (even if she cannot sense it) – she and the words are one. She may walk away from words. (Words are kinda stupid; they have no emotion – they will sit where they were last sat; where words should be – is a writer’s prerogative.) But there is no leaving. Even if she never writes them – she cannot escape them.

If you can help it – do not become a writer. There is no escape. If you become a writer; welcome to the club!

Return of the Rhythm

Writing here feels a bit weird, now. Using a keyboard, i.e.

A couple of hours ago, I completed a handwritten assignment: over 11,000 words, in seventy-five pages. The wrist and the fingers feel different; rejuvenated, or something like that. Like the return of an old memory; only that the sense of the memory is physical.

When I got to know about this assignment, I was a bit surprised. In this age and time? Handwritten assignments? That too, these long? I mean who does that anymore! A friend even called it regressive. And she would be right. But I decided to go through it. If nothing; as an experience.

When I finished the first three pages, I was not sure I’d be able to complete. The wrist and the fingers were ready to fall off. And I posted a picture of the pages that I had written, on Facebook, and wondered socially aloud, if I could complete it. Like an angel that she is, my English teacher from school, saw that post and asked me to keep at it. All through, whenever I talked about this — with friends and family — all I saw were congratulatory thoughts and lots of “thumbs ups.”

20161213_175457-01

The first seven – eight pages were painful, to say the least. And they were excruciatingly slow. Somewhere around that time, I found my rhythm. The muscle memory, which I thought I had lost, forever, kicked in. Ink started flowing on paper. The speed of my thought and the speed of my writing, found harmony. It was sweet music and dance. Fond memories of learning, discovering new things, surfaced slowly and put me in a happy place.

I am glad I didn’t give up.

Thank you, you know who you are.

PS: This post is a measly three-hundred and thirteen words. Perhaps this assignment was more than just a submission for my course-work.

The Album Tag

I was tagged on Facebook by Amit. Somehow, a tag for me, doesn’t look good on Facebook. I’ve taken the liberty of taking up the tag here, on the blog.

Amit Phansalkar tagged me to create a list of my favorite music, which has made a lasting impression on me. So, here goes.

The rules: Copy this & post as your status, delete my list. List 12 albums in no particular order that made a lasting impression on you, only 1 per band/artist. Tag some friends to do the same (including me, so I can, see what you listed).

6593: My Own Song

  1. Phir Wohi Dil Laya Hoon: This is a 1963 Hindi movie, starring an actor, who is not known for his acting. Yet, all the songs are so wonderful. Perhaps it was a 60s pattern that some of the not-so-good actors got some of the most amazing songs. In particular, the song “Humdum mere khel na jaano” is one of my favourites. There’s a unique essence of romance that’s inescapable. Here’s the playlist of all the songs of this movie. Mohd. Rafi is at his naughty best, in “Phir Wohi dil laya hoon” and “Lakhon hai nigah mein.” Watch/listen to the full playlist.
  2. Nirgun Bhajan: I was introduced pretty late in life to this. Yet, the impression that this album (if you can call it that, as Amit says) is everlasting. The nature of the songs being spiritual/philosophical (#YouPrefer) they suit all times, moods, places, and situations. I remember, listening to about four songs sitting on a London street bollard, while waiting for a friend, a long time ago, on a cool Wednesday afternoon. I am shamelessly using the same link for these songs, that Amit used.
  3. Dnyaneshwari: A 13th C. Marathi translation of the Shree Bhagvad Gita in Marathi, using a poetic metre, very popular in Maharashtra, called an ovi. This translation was done by Sant Dnyaneshwar, a very famous saint of the later Bhakti Movement. It has taken me a while to understand some parts (it is in olde Marathi) – but the lyrical quality, the structure and the wonderful rendition by Lata Mangeshkar is a a treat. Listen to the full album here.
  4. Arth-Saath Saath: Why is this album of two movies? It has perhaps to do with the fact that these movies were released during the cassette-tape era; Side A and Side B. Both movies were released in 1982 and each song is a gem. Unfortunately there isn’t wasn’t a playlist of these songs, so, here is one I created for this post. Most songs in this album are a discovery of finding love, losing love, and knowing love. “Tere Khushboo Mein Base Khat” is an all-time favourite.
  5. Concert in Central Park: By far the best collection of S&G songs, and it’s live. New York often finds mention in S&G songs, but this is a concert that you have to listen to, to feel the spirit of NY alive and kicking, in the concert. Enjoy!
  6. So Beautiful So What: This is the album where I potentially break the rules of this tag. I say potentially because #5 above is an S&G album, and this one is Paul Simon. SBSW is a recent release, and all that is true, wonderful, lovable, heartfelt about Paul Simon comes back to life in this album. It’s different in many ways – but the sense of love is the same. I will not be able to put it in words, so why don’t you go ahead and listen to it. If you have time for only one song, don’t miss “Dazzling Blue.
  7. Essential – Roy Orbison: I admit, I didn’t know of Roy Orbison for a long time. A chance encounter, c. 1999, sitting alone in a place thinking of a love far away, I heard Blue Bayou. I asked the bartender who it was, got myself this album the next day. Since then, it has never let me down. All 36 songs from this double CD set, here.
  8. The Abbey – Monks and Choirboys of Downside Abbey: March 2008; soulful voices echoing through the ruins of Glastonbury Abbey. Enough said? I just could not find the playlist for the album that I have, but here’s a superset, to help you get the flavour of what I enjoy.
  9. Le Nozze Di Figaro: Two words — Shawshank Redemption. Red says, “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about.Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a great place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free.” Never heard opera before in my life. After listening to an extract of one, in the movie, I got the album and it did not disappoint – though I still cannot understand it or tell you why I love it, I do.  Some titles aren’t available in this playlist, but it won’t be too difficult to find the Herman Prey version.
  10. But Seriously: The perfect album to have been released when you are seventeen. This album has been mine, since. And while I may discover and love newer music, this one is rock-solid, always there. And here it is for you.
  11. Pyaasa: No amount words can do justice to tell you what this album means to me. It’s not just the songs, it’s the movie, the man, the method, not in the least – the madness. Listen and lose yourself.
  12. Love, Actually – OST: If we were to ever talk of the best OST of a movie, this would rate way up in my list. Eclectic, evocative, emotional. Listen

Bonus: A Toda Cuba Le Gusta: If, you feel that I cheated with S&G/Paul Simon, here’s another one. This is an album of happiness and joy. Not just Cuba, I feel, everyone in the world loves it. This album is a Star Trek – like – teleporter. It can take you to wonderful places and wonderful times. All yours.

Feel free to take up this tag, and let us know of twelve albums that have had a lasting impression on you!

Being Friends

All that is in quotes happened offline, or in my head. The rest of it is real; i.e. it actually happened. Like, as real as it can be. I mean, as real as a real conversation is dramatised, embellished by (my) poetic license. And know this: I have permission from the person with whom I had this conversation. And no, I don’t have permission to reveal who it is. Do you care?

6174

~

The Friend: How many friends do you have?

I quickly go to my Facebook profile. 269. That’s it? Damn. I should start accepting all those friend requests I get. But then, I can hardly keep up with 269.

Me: A few short of 300, I think. Why?

TF: Not on Facebook, dummy! Real friends.

ME: Maybe ten or fifteen?

I have no idea what the right answer is. How many friends does an average person have? That’s the number I am seeking. I am an average person.

TF: No. Really. How many friends do we really have?

ME: I’ll let loose my hound-algorithms to deduce that. What’s on your mind?

Luckily for me, I remember all the tech jargon from college. But I was already wary of what was coming.

TF: How many real friends do you have? Seriously.

ME: As many fingers on one hand; I have no mutation.

Five.

TF: I just told off a “friend” – I said – I have enough fair weather friends. Where do you fit?

ME: Ouch.

TF: Yeah! That person didn’t understand what I am going through. I think, however, that the person understood exactly what I am going through. And being with me would be so much of a burden; a taxing companionship, so to speak. I have lost friends like autumn leaves. Once, my life made sense to them. Now that I am coloured by circumstances, friends are de-saturating.

ME: Hmm.

The “Hmm” is a catch-phrase of any IM conversation. It means absolutely nothing but it can mean anything. You use it when you have nothing to say, but need to respond. Because, the lack of response is worse than the infinite abstraction of the universality of the “Hmm.” I was however, also thinking of those that moved away. Those “friends.” Did I drive them away? Was I not good enough for them anymore? Did they choose to move away? Did my life suddenly become dull and uninteresting?

TF: You there?

ME: Yes, yes. Am here. [12 second pause] You did what you had to do. I have only just walked away. Perhaps I find it uncomfortable to confront. So I walk away. Telling someone who they are is a pointless exercise because, either they know who they are or they think they are someone else. Telling them, therefore, serves no purpose.

It’s 1994 or 95-ish. I am waiting at Stadium Restaurant. I have called my friend from a PCO, as I left office that evening. I’d be there in 45 minutes, he confirms he will be there too, in about an hour or so. These are the days when we didn’t have mobile phones (Just helping your imagination). I am there at 7:45pm as promised. I wait there. For three hours. I have no way of contacting him. He shows up. After three hours. He was unapologetic. Mostly. I am surprised about myself. Yes, I am tired; I am not angry. He is my best friend. Finger No. 1.

TF: I should do that. Walking away is maturity, I guess.

TF doesn’t mean it that way, but I cringe. There comes my age into play again.

ME: Please avoid the word “mature” – makes me feel old.

TF: Haha!

Time is experience. Yes, many years have passed. And I am what I am only after these many years. c. 1989. College hostel. I meet with a senior. He tells me what I am getting into. After all the talk, he says, “Forget all I said, no one learns by listening – you have to make your own mistakes. Just enjoy the ride”

ME: There is no one truth. It’s unique to us. Live your own, in the way you can. Your circumstance isn’t your life. Your life has a circumstance. Life’s forever. Circumstances come and go. Don’t let a circumstance dictate what you have to say and what you do not. Let life dictate that.

TF: I like that thought.. good idea. Let me try that.

Play

This tweet made my day!

The play in question was “The Square Root of a Sonnet.” I have been in Achyutha’s town for a while, and while we promised to catch up, we hadn’t. Going to the play seemed like a good excuse to meet Achyutha. It’s not that I was not interested in the play; I was. It was directed by Prakash Belawadi — an actor I have come to admire after I have seen a few of his performances in Hindi movies. Airlift, especially.

I dread going to the theatre. As an audience.

20160916_015919I have always maintained that my place in a theatre was on the stage. I haven’t been to a theatre in a very long time. (Except for one, half a dozen years ago, where I was, technically dragged to it). As much as enjoy to no end, watching a play, the sense that I am always sitting in the wrong side of a theatre bothers me when I enter the theatre and depresses me when I leave it. I am at peace, when I am in it.

I am learning to drown the dread.

It was my first play in Bengaluru. At Ranga Shankara, a compact theatre, which is probably modelled on Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai. Needless to say, it has a sweet and swanky coffee shop. (Yup, those are mandatory in places like these.)

It was a wonderful evening, an evening that I haven’t had for a long time.

It did not end there. That’s what made the evening special.

It was the star-struck me, for the rest of the evening that made it special. And I am not talking only of Prakash Belawadi.

~

PS: If you read this in good time, The Square Root of Sonnet is staging tomorrow (Fri, 16 Sep) again, at Ranga Shankara, in Bengaluru. If you cannot make it to this show, lookout for when it shows somewhere near you. DO. NOT. MISS. IT.