Aaliya

“I don’t have the poetry that you do. So your longing seems greater than mine. But it’s not…”

How I wish I had the ability to compose a sher or a poem for every moment of unbridled joy, deepest despair, maddening passion, mind-numbing helplessness or soulful calmness I have experienced…

Perhaps, then, you would truly understand the rhythm of my heartbeat…

Perhaps, then, you could comprehend every grain of my existence…

And maybe, just maybe, choosing would be a lot easier…

-Aaliya

Advertisements

Main aur meri tanhayee, aksar yeh baatein kartein hain..

It’s the same scene again- the green shrubs lined in a single file for miles on end- each row had a signboard with a name on it – Barbera, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Muscadet… Almost looked like an assembly line in school. There was that little wooden house in the middle of all that lushness – propped up on stilts with a tiny ladder to reach the doorway. The house looked like it could be blown away by a strong gust of wind, but its appearance defied its strength.. And there she was, standing at the door of the house holding one of those cowbells in her hand- she had just bought it from the gift shop as a souvenir. She was a memories-person and this trip was definitely memory-worthy.. She looked happy, really happy. Maybe it was the wine.. She posed for a picture and then reached her hand out to him to get down. And….

Her eyes opened. This was where it always ended. She knew what happened next- it had been real, after all. But it was as if someone had snipped off the tape from this point on in her mind and so she could never replay the next scenes again.. What was worse was that she was wide awake now. She checked the time on her cellphone- 4:15 AM- oh crap, looks like even dreams follow clockwork.. Why does it always have to be two hours before her alarm rang?! She had to go back to sleep- this routine was starting to frustrate her now..

She closed her eyes shut and tried to clear her mind- pictured all thoughts floating away into nothingness- a very ethereal image- but nope, no sleep. She tried imagining a curtain of the blackest black ever. Didn’t work. Counting stars and sheep had never been useful in any case. Finally she gave up trying- just kept her eyes shut in the hope that fatigue will take over at some point. It was at this point that she heard his voice –

“Ten nights in a row and you still haven’t learned eh.. Same story all the time.”, he said
“Why are you here, yet again?! I thought I had made it clear that I don’t want you in my life anymore.”, she replied, opening her eyes finally. She knew now, that sleep was not going to return.
“If only it worked that way, my dear. You forgot to teach me obedience when I was little. So now, I come and go as I please. You should know that..”, he replied wryly. His voice was careless, dry, pompous to an extent- he knew he was in control.
“Okay, have it your way then. I’m awake. What do you want?”, she asked, resigning to him finally.
“That has never been the question. You know I wouldn’t come if you didn’t want me to. So, the real question is- what do you want?!”
“For the hundredth time- If I knew, I’d do something about it, right. I seriously don’t know !!”
“Think about it, Aaliya. Really think.. I’ll give you some time while I take a short nap..”
“Seriously?! Seriously?! You want me to think while you nap? Dude, I work ten to eleven hours everyday, and am dead tired and still I get no more than five hours of sleep every night because you come and disturb me at the break of dawn; and you want me to sit and think while you nap?! I would punch you so hard if you were real…”. She was angry now, really angry.
“Ahhh stop yelling, woman! It’s such a beautiful night. Are you thinking of the past again?”
“No! I’m not. And that is the problem- the past is such a blur- I cannot remember anything even if I want to. Where did all those memories go?”
“Ahhh.. Well, blurs can be artistic. Or alcoholic too, actually. Did you drink too much? Maybe that explains the vineyards…”. He was mocking her, and was not even ashamed of it.
“No, I don’t drink that much and you know it. And yes, I remember the vineyards, but even that is a half-baked memory. The rest of it has just dissipated mysteriously. There are scenes and snippets here and there- tiny 20 second clips. A few months ago, these were a full-blown movie.”
“But that is a good thing, right. That movie made you sad every time you saw it. It’s going away. That is what is supposed to happen. Why do you want to hold on?”
“I don’t. I don’t want to hold on. But at the same time, I did not expect them to just go away. Those memories, those people were a part of the fabric of my life at one point. How can they just not be there all of a sudden?”
“The people haven’t stayed, so why do you expect the memories to?”
“No, it’s not that. I knew they would go away after a while. It’s just that I always thought that reminiscing about those days would at least evoke some emotion in me- sadness, remorse, disappointment- something. But now?! It’s just nothingness- isn’t that weird? It’s almost as if moving on was so easy..”
“Okay, now it’s my turn to say it- seriously !! I’ve been listening to you whine about wanting to let go for nearly a year now. You moved across the country because you thought that would make you move on.. And now that it has happened, you say it was too easy?! I think in some perverted way, you like the sadness..”
“Maybe we do- human nature. I think being dark and twisty feels more natural than bright and shiny. It’s comfortable. It helps you justify eating the whole tub of ice-cream or laying in bed watching soppy movies the whole day. There are too many expectations from optimistic people! It’s way too much pressure..”
“And the Gods wonder why the human civilization is doomed! You act like you have all these lives to live and your bones cannot take the burden anymore… Wake up and smell the coffee !!”
“Look- I know the speech- I am young, I have a brilliant job, I am financially independent, I have friends in my life, and interests that keep me happy.. On the face of it, there is nothing to complain about. I know I’m supposed to be happy.. But still, the picture is not complete…”
“The picture, again! My artist friend, the picture is not complete because you have decided that it is not. You draw your own painting, you decide its boundaries, you decide what you want in it, you decide the colors, you decide the theme.. It’s you, not anyone else. Ever remember the importance of white space in your art class? Too many things at one time and what you get is a mess- nothing stands out, or everything stands out. Besides, life is not one picture, it is an exhibition of all your creations- however shoddy they may be. And even an exhibition takes time to build- you do it one frame at a time.You cannot do it all, and you cannot have it all.”
“Easier said than done.. It’s like I’m driving on a freeway at a speed of eighty-five miles per hour without a GPS- and you know how terrible my sense of direction is! What if I missed my exit? What if I missed on the wonderful experiences that could have been mine, had I just slowed down or just looked at a map beforehand?”
“Fine- then take a damn exit, just for the sake of it- but before you do, be forewarned that the interesting story you are looking for might just turn out to be an interminable nightmare – are you ready for that? And enough with the metaphors, already! You’re confusing me, now!”
“All I’m saying is- how do I know that I’m choosing the right path.. It’s just frustrating thinking about all that could have been…”
“I hate to break it to you, Aaliya, but if you wanted life to be simple, then you should have signed under the “Bugs” column when God was filling out the Choices form. And even they don’t have it easy nowadays..”
“…and wait, people- they’re complicated! They love to hurt you. One day, they are your best friends, they make you part of their life, they love you and care for you and make you get used to them. And the next minute, you’re out- replaced by work or other friends or lovers.. Whatever happened to commitment?”
“You need to breathe… And stop analyzing. What could have been- no such thing. If it didn’t happen, then it could never have been. And couldn’t have been because it wasn’t good for you. And people- for every person who left, there are two who stayed and unfortunately, you only know to focus on the wrong ones..”
“So, what do I do? Be thankful for the life I have, learn to count my blessings, think about the journey and not the destination, appreciate the stars and the roses along the way…?!”
“Nothing- you just try to sleep- five hours a day is not enough.. When you wake up, it is another day. It may not be a new start, but at least it would be a new opportunity to make things right again..”
“I should sleep.. These thoughts, they just don’t go away.. But I should sleep.. Are you going to come back again tomorrow?”. There was anticipation in her voice- but whether good or bad, no one could tell.
He smiled and said, “Only if you want me to, Aaliya. I’ll come only if you want me to, remember?”

The Bench

Blame fiction writers and film-makers for romanticizing gardens so much. He who plants a garden, plants happiness, they say. Great love is born here, even greater loves end here. Legend has it that Newton was sitting in a garden when he was hit by that famed apple and the story of gravity was born. No one even considers the fact the Newton was working on the theory of terrestrial gravity for nearly two decades- what is important is that it all came together during that afternoon walk in the garden full of apple trees. The Book of Genesis credits the Garden of Eden as the place where the whole of the human race initiated. People build gardens as dedications for their loved ones. You know my favorite garden scene in a movie? It’s one of those last scenes in (500) days of Summer, where Summer meets Tom for the first time after she gets married. That dialogue still rings in my head – “You weren’t wrong, Tom. You were just wrong about me.”

Me? Oh, I’m a bench- the tiny, inconsequential element that no garden is complete without and yet, is always forgotten. There are no love ballads written about me. No bench is ever used as a metaphor for life, love and happiness. I’m sure there were no benches in the Garden of Eden, but let’s go back to the Newton story- what if Issac was sitting under another bench and the apple had never fallen on his head? He still would have figured out the laws of Nature, of course, only maybe a decade later.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m usually not the jealous, attention-seeking type. I agree that I per se, have no aesthetic appeal whatsoever. People come to the garden for the trees and the flowers and butterflies and ponds and the like- I am only a functional element placed for the sake of convenience, a mere prop. There isn’t a lot you can do with me too- I come in two types, wood and metal. There could be a simple or more ornate version of me- but that’s about it. But would people spend as much time in a garden if there were no bench? Probably not. Most of them don’t like to get their clothes dirty, so they wouldn’t sit on the grass, although I agree that is more romantic than a bench. I am the one who hears all the stories, sees the love and the pain and the fear and the passion. I feel for these people. I know these people……

“I’m sorry, Aaliya.”, he said.
“This is all I wanted. For seven years. All I wanted was a heartfelt sorry. So, I should say thank-you I guess”, she replied, pensive look in her eyes.
“I guess I was a kid back then. Naive and stupid. I should have stayed.”
“You shouldn’t have stayed, you should have fought. There is a difference. And you should have been honest with me. I deserved that much.”
“I know. But why didn’t you fight longer then, Al. You knew how messed up my mind was then.”
“You think we would have lasted any longer? A year more, maybe. But a lifetime? Nahh.. We are structured very differently, Nits. You need a punching bag and a Gibraltar. Someone who’ll be there when you think the whole world is against you. But you don’t know how to be that for someone else.”
“That’s not true.”
“It is. And you know it. Anyway, that is not of any consequence anymore. We have both moved on far bigger and better places. This day is just an ending our story should have gotten years ago.”
“Are you happy?”
“Yes. More than I can ever imagine. Whatever happened, did happen for the best.”
“I know. And I’m happy for us”
“Bye, Nits. Have a good life.”
“Bye, Aaliya. I’m sorry again.”

She smiles. They get up and leave. They were my favorite couple. And I remember feeling the pangs of helplessness when they ended things right at this spot seven years ago, almost to the day. That was the day I wished I had arms that could move. So that I could give one thwack to Nits and ask him to stay. So that I could give a bear hug to Aaliya when he left.

I am only a bench- ornate and metal, painted black. I have no wordly wisdom and no greater purpose. But there’s one quote from Shantaram that sums up life as I know it.

“Sometimes we love with nothing more than hope. Sometimes we cry with everything except tears. In the end that’s all there is. Love & its duty, sorrow & its truth. In the end that’s all we have – to hold on tight until the dawn” 

Shantaram was her favorite book. Aaliya always read this out to Nits. Unfortunately, he never really got it.

Fiction piece from the yesteryears..

Time: One of those unusual quiet Saturdays, 1:35 AM
State of Mind: Melancholic
Song on iPod: Tanha Dil Tanha Safar (maybe that explains the mood.. :P) 
I am browsing through my hard disk and reading some of the articles I’ve written in the past so many years- most of them have found their way to this blog, but there are some things which I never got around to posting coz they were too amateurish or silly.. Opened this little fictional piece I wrote many years ago- which is kind of inspired from a true life incident (as is all fiction).. Just brought a smile to my face because it’s ending is the exact opposite of what I wrote about in my previous post..
Reproducing it here, in its unedited and unabridged form, four years after writing it.. 🙂
**********************************************************************************

Remember how we used to have categories of friends when we were younger- general friends, good friends, best friends, bestestest friends.. She wanted to know which category she belonged to.

“Well, if it bothers you so much, just ASK him.. Not a big deal. It’s not like you’re his pesky girlfriend”, her mind told her.
True. But asking a question as silly as “So….where do I stand in your life?” would make her a “typical” female, a tag she had so consciously stayed away from.
But everything was so unsettling. She wanted to know. Maybe she was a typical.
“Penny for your thoughts!”, he said, as he sat beside her on the couch, interrupting her thoughts.
“Hey! Done with your phone call?”
“Yeah, was a friend from work. So….who you thinking about?”, he asked, that familiar twinkle in his eyes.
“Huh…no one re. Just watching some TV”
“The History Channel? Wow…you take TV – watching seriously mate !”
With that, they both burst out laughing, as she flipped through the channels. A few minutes passed by in silence- the comfortable kind, not awkward at all..
“Hey, ummmm….you wanna go for a walk or something? If you’re not too tired with all the traveling and jet lag, that is.”, he asked finally.
She looked at him, and suddenly everything was so clear. Her mind raced back to 1998- this was exactly how it had started. This very question, that walk, had marked their transition from “general” friends to “bestestest” friends. 
Of course, nothing had changed.. This time, geographical boundaries and education had come in the way. Soon, there’d be girlfriends and boyfriends, jobs, marriage, kids; but nothing; absolutely nothing could change what they had. Ever. Did she really need to define it? No. Because some things are best left unsaid….
“What’s funny? Why are you smiling?”, he asked, as he walked towards the door.
“Nothing. I’ll just grab a pullover; I think its kinda cold in your London….”
**********************************************************************************
Sometimes Calvin and Hobbes just get you.. 🙂
Time: 1:58 AM
State of Mind: Still Melancholic
Song on iPod: Haule haule ho jayega pyaar..
Last thought before I crash into bed: I love Taani partner!