Bookmark #576

The artist—the creator—scares Gods simply because he has no use for them. There is a voice; the voice never shuts up, and we must serve it, eventually. The world is not very helpful, all things considered, but the one thing it ensures is the death of the artist and the burgeoning of spineless idiots walking around, showing each other excuses in some embarrassing exchange. You can scream at the top of your lungs atop the seventh floor of a burning building, and no one dare stop to look up. But agree once with what they are selling, use the snake oil of personal mediocrity, and you shall be rewarded. Every time an artist sells his soul, every moment someone stops making art—vast meaning out of nothing—the world wins. We are at war, people like you and me; we are always at war with mediocrity. We must not let it breach our boundaries, and every moment we doubt our pen is an outpost lost.

I am no one to refute statistics. I am no one to deny the truly learned minds in the world. I am only a person like you and like so many others. I am no one to say the facts are wrong, and I am no one to say the odds are not against us. But in the end, no one sits on a chair facing the world on a balcony or a porch and says, “I am glad I trusted the word of the wise; I am glad I did not try at all.”

Ultimately, it will be your life, your magnificently unfulfilled life, and your incomplete identity will stare back at you as you sit and have your tea on the porch. Meaningless days leading to that very moment will have been spent and will continue.

But go ahead, hide behind your facts and figures, your charts and papers, and continue hiding. The chair of purposelessness, of loneliness, rocks in anticipation. The floor beneath it creaks and waits for you. In the end, it will be procrastination that wins. I am no one in front of the facts, but I will try regardless. I encourage you to fight back. The rest will happen as it does. It will make no difference in the grand scheme of things, but you will have tried. It will count for something when you sit there, staring. But it is up to you. Whether you try or not, in the end, nothing else remains.

But you will have tried.

Bookmark #575

Sometimes, I wake up early and have coffee, and I think about how insignificant my role here is, that this may be all I have to give to the world. I think of my contribution so far—how little I have managed to change things, of how most lives play out the same way. While this makes it sound like a bother, it is not. It is only tepid disappointment. To think otherwise would be to live in agony. It is the disappointment like that of coffee not being how you like it, of not being invited to someplace you did not want to go to in the first place, of only one leaf dying in a flourishing tree, of the insignificance in all things, of things happening and not affecting anything else. Sometimes, I wake up early, and my life feels like a long series of inconsequential moments. I stand in the cold embrace of the morning hours and make my peace with it.

But then, as the day gets on, my brazen dejectedness tempers a little, and I think maybe even someone like me can push the world and make it spin someday. Yes, perhaps someone like me could do it, too. But not today; today, I have to live how I live, unnoticed and unremembered. There is peace in this, too, but there will be satisfaction in knowing that I stood for something when the tail-end begins. I wonder if most lives are spent this way, even those lives that eventually move the world and make it skip a beat while it spins around itself.

We live as if there are rules to it. We talk of the world as if the world is a single, consistent entity that has always been this way. That is not the way it has been, however. The world I live in, the world you live in today, is the first time it has been this way. As I try to understand things, so does the world. Every year, things change; every year, how things usually happen changes with them. The usual is as transient as someone’s mood, which can begin one way in the morning and, come afternoon, become something entirely different. I am this way for the first time in the world, and the world is the way it is for the first time as well.

Things, unexpected, incredible things, may happen just yet. We could never know how things happen until they do.

Bookmark #574

When you start laughing again, you must also build a convincing case for it. And when you lose your laughter, even if intermittently and temporarily, you must, again, make a case for it. You must, at all times, be prepared with a defence. This, and only this, is what it means to be a person—to be your own counsel, your own defence because God knows what people may ask when they ask things, and you do not want to be flustered. Some days are so unsavoury, albeit not bad or terrible, just rancid in their aftertastes, like some spoilt fish or an egg or a love affair, that you only wish to distance yourself from them. You want to get off your chair, and you want to begin walking without a plan. And when they end, even then, you continue walking away from them. There are days like this in all lives. But you must let them end when they have when the clock strikes midnight, and if possible, before that, much before that. You must tuck yourself into a blanket, play some soft music and go to sleep. Some days end moments after they begin. An hour or minute from that point on feels like smacking a corpse. When the world allows us, and as soon as we hang the coat of responsibility, we must let them end.

The evening was foggy, and there was a stink in the air, and at first, I wondered where it came from. Then I realised it was my disposition that was spoilt. So, I opened the windows and let it waft away. There is no defence for this. There is only one excuse: I woke up and did not feel like my sleep did me any good. There is little we can do about it when this happens. So, I tell myself: you did your duties, you were a human, albeit reluctantly, and now, you must let it end where it ends. There is no point fighting this, no point at all. You must lay down your sword, and you must hush your words. The day ended long ago. Let go, let go.

Bookmark #573

In the evening, I finished some work and went for a walk. The air was misty and moist. It is November, after all. The days have gotten colder, and it is not uncommon that, while the days are warm, courtesy of the generous winter sun, a shiver enters the room like some ungodly wraith as soon as the clock strikes five. Suddenly, all life creeps away from everything around you, and you hunt for a jacket. As I walked to the coffee shop, all the while debating whether to get a cup and realising that I had walked to it only out of habit, I started to remember. Walking the same streets day by day has that effect—you tend to run into a ghost now and then.

In a November not too long ago from now, I was handed several pieces of my life, chipped, broken and cracked. I held them in my hands and asked: what must I do with all this? A voice echoed from deep within the caverns of my heart: what we all must do with pieces; you rebuild. And even though it feels like it was yesterday, an entire year has passed. Credit where it’s due: I did not get here alone. There is always a nudge from others, and there is always the kind hand of fate. Be that as it may, I have now rebuilt.

There is a soft, wilful complacency in me now. Perhaps, this is what happens when you get older. Perhaps, it is an end result of being handed pieces of what you call life. I wouldn’t know, and happy and proud as I was, I kept walking. Just then, I heard an echo: what now? And in it lay all of humanity’s sin and the source of all unhappiness. This question had cut many before me; I, too, had been a victim of its blade.

I seized my walk and went home to spend time with family, and we had tea, and we made jokes about nothing in particular, and we had dinner, and then we watched some TV. It is a good life, and when it is good, we must protect it, especially from ourselves. The worry about the future is often too early, and it is often the only thing that unravels the present. I know it because I have done it. I started pulling at a thread, and before I knew it, it had come undone.

When we ask: what now? We must answer: nothing. That is the only thing we must do with the now—nothing at all.

Bookmark #572

When you’re out in the world, you must be a certain kind of unfazed. Otherwise, you may come home lost in thought and in a worse state than you left it in. I was in the cab this evening. The rush of the weekend was still relevant, which is to say that every hour was a rush hour until the clocks hit midnight.

The loneliness of being surrounded by traffic is, of course, belittling and overwhelming, and when you’re in a cab, you talk to the cabbie to pass through it, or the cabbie talks to you, whichever comes first. I find it to be a good excuse to understand what’s going on in the city, and having an opinion from another walk of life, as they divulge their deepest secrets and thoughts to you, is one of the few ways to get to the actual state of affairs. Today, as the cab jostled its way through the traffic, quite abruptly, if I must add, the driver asked me where I was from. I told him I was from here, although I was shocked, and if not shocked, I was slightly taken aback at his assumption. To which he quickly said that I did not look like people who were from here, and I smiled and asked him what do people from here look like then, and he said he didn’t know, and I told him I didn’t know either, but I will try better tomorrow to look the part.

Of course, this was all in good spirits and humour, like all things should be, and then, we talked about the traffic, the city, the country, his children, his life and my life. This was not the first time I was asked a question like this. Quite often, I get into cabs or autos, and when I do, they ask me where I am from. Perhaps, based on how I carry myself or in the way I talk, which has traces from all the places I have lived in peppered into it. I tell them I am from here, there and everywhere, of course, as a coy remark. Then, I ask them what prompted them to ask the question. They tell me, just like it happened today, that I did not appear to be from here, and the conversation follows quite like it did today, with the same spirit of banter.

But all levity and small talk aside, it makes you think. Goddamn it, it makes you think.

Bookmark #571

I stood by the kitchen shelf and noticed a spot I had left unclean last night. Or perhaps, I had kept the mug there later, but it was left, so I wiped it. We should wipe what we can when we notice it. It is how kitchens, and perhaps, lives, remain spotless. Just then, the music was playing as it always does, and then, a song came on, and for a second, I did not notice it. I was still preoccupied with the spot on the black marble. Then, almost like some old memory buried far below the surface of my current life and days, I recognised the song. And like a song often does, it took me back on a trip down to that year, to the person I was at the time, who does not exist anymore—not as a fault of his own, but life and only life.

There is only so much we can choose over what happens to us. The rest happens as it happens. People are resilient not because they can brave impossible things but because they can adapt. The tenacity we so often talk about and take pride in doesn’t come from heaving the load; it comes from manoeuvring. The elasticity of being a person keeps us alive and going. When I say I am living, I also say I have murdered every person I have been before, attended their funerals, and given candid eulogies. To live means to keep changing; to change is to do this over and over again. Then, a song comes along and stirs something up. For a little bit, you find yourself in another city, in another year, doing things you do not do anymore, dreaming dreams you don’t want anymore, saying things you haven’t said in a long time.

This, too, is a kind of grief, but it is a grief that has settled down. I thought of what I thought of when the song played, and I smiled as I returned to the weekend afternoon. I returned to the spotless shelf, to the cup of coffee, hot and fruity, and to who I am now.

Bookmark #570

When I woke up this morning, I had an incredible thought. It was a perfect beginning to a perfect piece. More often than not, you only need a beginning. The rest follows in writing, and in life. But then, I made coffee and spent a little too much on deciding which coffee to choose, scrambling for tissues since I woke up with a runny nose, and then, I got a phone call, and then I ran out of electricity and had to get that sorted out over the phone; slowly, but surely, I lost the thought, and I sat and tried to recall it, but it was nowhere to be found. Now, this day and this piece have been robbed of their perfect beginning. Instead, there is this messy concerto of all the things that can happen to people in the morning.

But then, even if you only need a beginning, there is still much you can do in between when things go as they go. Even though you only need a beginning, we must accept most beginnings are messy, and they have little to say about what happens later. At least, we must believe that, we must believe that so all lives must make sense, and so we have a reason to go out in the world and do what we do. If all beginnings had any say over how things will go, most people should just give up on life, but we do not do that here. We go forward with hope in our hearts and some agency in our hands. “There is still something I can do about it” is the only thing that separates humans from everyone else. Even if our beginnings dictate far too much about what happens to us, we tend to believe. We believe we can change things, and as it turns out, we do. History is a testament to this, and our world is the spitting image of this hope.

Perhaps, that is it. Perhaps, this piece can still be saved, and now that I think of it, so can this day. It may be a bit late, but it is still early in the grand scheme of the day. It is almost always still early. There is so much that can happen still.

Bookmark #569

It’s early in November, and it’s early in the morning, and I sit here trying to write. The sky is hazy once more as it tries to cope with the growing city. But the sun, the sun is ever so yellow and so warm. In the few hours it has taken me to write these words, the city has remained quiet. The day is getting on, but the slow comfort of winter creeps about every home. You can hear the roar of engines and the vehicles moving about, but it is not as loud, and there is a peaceful mood to the day. I wrote this much and got off the chair to walk about the flat and wasted some time here and there. Then, I rolled my sleeves, sat back again and began writing. Sometimes, we are out of touch with what we want to say. It does not mean there is nothing to say; it only suggests we should keep trying.

But there is little to say, for I woke up happy and in good spirits; there is little you can say about it. I’ve always found it curious how, when we start laughing again, we must also build a convincing case for it. And when we lose our laughter, even if intermittently and temporarily, we must, again, build a case for it. We must, on all occasions, be prepared with an ironclad defence. God knows what people ask when they ask things, and you do not want to be flustered and give the wrong reasons. But today, I shall have no such problem. Today, my reasons are simple: the morning was fresh, and the sun was golden. It was an excellent beginning to a somewhat typical day. There is little need to say anything else.

Bookmark #568

All art demands to be experienced, and all artists look for attention, even if they say they do not need any. I think of this more often than not: who am I writing for? And when “for myself” follows softly as the answer, I pose another question: but for how long? The silence takes centre stage, and no answer ever follows. I do not know where I will ever draw the line, but I would be obtrusively dishonest if I said I never thought of the futility of what I and many others do. In a world where there is no place and time for prose, we write, and we write, and we bare it all, only for a handful of people who read it and only for a couple who ever understand it. It is a lonely pursuit—the loneliest of all—but we seldom choose our inclinations. What comes naturally to us cannot be denied.

And yet, that does not mean there is no doubt or question. There always is space for it. I doubt all my years of writing which have passed and those yet to come. Then, I imagine whether there was a better use for my ability to conjure sentences, hack emotions and piggyback on pain. I wonder if I ever had a career in advertising, or perhaps, somewhere else failed writers go. Maybe, there could be a life where I taught creative writing to kids, helping them dream about writerly lives filled with prose and luncheons and walks.

Then, I remember the only writing advice I have ever received cordially like you receive a present you really want. It was at a conference over a decade ago. Now, I was not listening to the speeches intently. After some time, all boasting starts to meld into itself, but a man, whose achievement or name I do not recall, said something that echoed enough to reach me.

“Do not look to write creatively; avoid courses like the plague, and learn to simply write first. Write, write, write. The creative bit comes later. It comes when it comes. It comes when you are worthy of it. Live first; then, write about it. And live honestly without seeking anything. Then, write in the very same way. You will know it when it comes.”

I often wonder what happened to him.

Bookmark #567

I came home, did the dishes, and then debated whether to pour a drink or brew a cup of tea. On the one hand, the day had been long and confusing; on the other, November had just begun, and we drank tea in November. So, I turned the kettle on, but that did not change the fact that the day had befuddled me. As the kettle whistled and got louder, I thought of talking to the man who came to clean my apartment this morning. Sometimes, in life, you feel remorse for the general state of the world and how we live, how things are, and how no matter where you stand, life is difficult. But it occurs to you that you cannot do much about it but be kind, so you are kind.

Come night, you stand on the balcony, surrounded by the silence of a city that knows all too well that November has arrived. The days are cold and short, and even if they are like that, a lot still happens during the day. You stand thinking about everything—if there is more you can do about everything, sipping tea—and then, you go to sleep. When you wake up, the world spins madly on. The cleaner cleans another house, and you still remember your candid conversation with him as you go through your own day, cleaning your own little messes.

I watched something on the TV the other day. Some robots explored the remnants of a lost civilisation. Through their imagination, they explained what could have happened to the humans, who, in that narrative, were long gone. And at some point, they made the cliched argument of greed and the hubris of humankind, but only a robot can think of life in such absolutes. It is never that easy, and even if it could be that easy, it is never that simple, and those two are seldom the same.

The human experience is terribly unfair, and it is abysmally random. We do not have much, but we have integrity and kindness, but it cannot save anyone. It can only help us rationalise what we feel when we are out and about in the world. It does not change much else. And as I come to an end of my wits about this once again, I realise you cannot end this thought correctly because you never stop feeling it: to live is to continually feel the irony of your existence until you die.

Bookmark #566

I talk to people, and I understand their hopes, fears and dreams. I talk to them and they spill it all away, they spill their life into words, as if some dam has been broken. It occurs to me, and this happens quite often, that they, themselves, are the barrier they so desperately want to jump across. I tell them this to varying degrees. Before we shower it onto them, we must always gauge a person’s ability to take the truth. Most people are broken vessels, with invisible cracks here and there, and if you pour the truth onto them, the cracks give way, and nothing good comes out of it. But then, after all is said and done, I sit at a coffee table with my deepest troubles and insecurities, and I remember I, too, am the same way. I, too, pretend to cross hurdles and call it a life well-lived, knowing too well I put some of them there.

Yet, even if we lock ourselves into a prison and swallow the key, we must break out of it as if someone else has put us there. The quality of the solution does not change, regardless of who began the problem. An insect flying into a room must find a way out, irrespective of whether the gust pushed it in or whether it flew of its own volition and confusion. That is its only goal in the little time it spends inside: to leave safely and not be spotted, and if spotted, to manoeuvre away and not be smacked, and if caught, to hope, to hope their jailer is a child who intends to let them out.

And this is what I tell people when I tell them the truth. It is not our concern how the mess came about; it is our concern to leave it, to make it out alive, and sometimes, we must do what we must do, and hope, we must hope for kindness. But before all of that, before any of it, we must admit we are in the wrong place. We must excuse ourselves as soon as we can. But most people seldom leave. They spend their lives changing the furniture and redecorating. But the prison remains a prison, no matter how you dress it up. More often than not, I cannot tell them this, for they cannot handle the truth.

I would know; I am like that, too. I am like all the people I talk to. All people are broken vessels, and if not broken, most of us are, at least, cracked.

Bookmark #565

I woke up with a puffy nose and made some coffee, and sat to read my words from yesterday. As it usually happens, last night’s malaise had followed me into a new day. Then, it occurred to me that I had to leave for an early breakfast with a friend, so I washed up and left. While waiting, I ordered a cup of ginger, honey and lemon tea, hoping to resolve this little situation. It would have been alright too, but then just across from me was the most pompous and raucous bunch of people sitting. It was not that they were happy and, therefore, loud—the loudness of happiness is different. And while I was not intent on eavesdropping, their conversation managed to reach me regardless. But then, I believe you cannot eavesdrop on a public spectacle. The little I managed to hear before I blocked this noise on an otherwise serene Sunday morning was enough to tell me there was a potpourri of insecurities on that table.

It is not uncommon to come across this particular archetype of people, and there is little we can do about it. Even if there were some societal solution, I believe it would not begin at Sunday breakfast in a cafe. Thus, I quietly chipped away at my breakfast and continued to lose myself in the verdant interplay of trees and branches right outside the window. I noticed bees buzzing about the leaves, and I recalled how this tree blossoms with beautiful red flowers during spring. All that buzzing has a purpose, and we do not see it come to fruition until months have passed. Regardless of how loud or soft people are, perhaps, they have their own purpose, and if not all, then most of us have some part to play in this world. Or maybe, I was giving too much credit to terribly rude behaviour by leaning too deep into the metaphor.

But then, it was a sunny weekend morning, and I was sick, and one tends to be forgiving on days such as this. I continued to have my breakfast, and I continued waiting for my friend.

Bookmark #564

In these years inching towards getting older, I have come face to face with the irony of my peers, of people who lived life saying things they did not believe in, getting by with only words and nothing else, and now I see. I see why history repeats itself. The world is an old, grey-furred dog running after its own tail, spinning in circles. It is old only in its visage; in its heart, it is as naive as a puppy. There has been a murder of trust. All conversation of fighting for a better world has been nothing but a dagger in the backs of people like me—those who say what they believe in, who live it, who live and preach it. Most people I broke bread with, as we talked about how we will not repeat the errors of those who came before, have devoured their oaths and promises like they devoured their meals. This moral heartbreak has been a tiresome slow burn. How naive have I been? How convinced I was that we were the chosen ones, that we were to build it better together? I think of this, and it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart every second as I walk about and go about my days. I cannot do anything about it. I can only hold out the hope that there are others like me who I will come across, and we will live with virtue, kindness and compassion, and we will live in the attempt. The attempt is all there is—the attempt to make it all better.

For now, this is a bookend. This is an intermission in my understanding of the world as I go around, and I see how the world is as blind as those who raised them, that people would exchange the highest of values at the prospect of chump change and shallow puddles of cursory joy. All generations must suffer this, I believe, this mass wave, this mass reveal of the true nature of the world. There is little more I can say about it. I meet people, and sometimes, it breaks my heart. It breaks my heart to watch it all burn the same way, to watch it all burn as it always has, to watch everyone drinking water out of their cups, saying, “this is but a glass of water; it has no power over flames so far and wide” in unison. It breaks my heart.

Bookmark #563

The morning seems further away in time than the day I have spent, which is evident and true when you consider the mathematics of the hours. But we rarely go with how things are; we almost always trust how things feel. And as far as feeling is concerned, I remember waking up early and brewing coffee but not getting a chance to drink it since I had to leave to meet a friend over an early breakfast. It seems all I remember from that moment is getting a sip, smelling the aroma, and thinking: what a waste of a good drink; I did not even write anything. One may ask: why make an effort when you know you will not drink it? And then, I’d ask them why do we do anything? Habit. I did it out of habit like most people live out of habit. I only brewed a cup of coffee; it could be much worse.

And then, I spent the day in drudgery. Working. Talking, working and eating, and only thinking about wastefulness, not in the sense of waste of coffee, the food, but waste of coffee, the fuel. I can write well without coffee or drink. Still, the morning hit of the simple, deliberately brewed cup must not be underestimated. It changes all the words; it makes them better. And then, after the day, I went to dinner, and the drinks in me reminded me of the coffee I had wasted in the morning. On my walk back to the apartment, this was all I thought about. It was good laughter and good drink, and we must not waste it. We must not waste it twice in one day. Something good must come out of it in the end. All regret is only that and nothing else: a waste of a good coffee or drink. It was a good day, we tell ourselves; I should have done more to remember it clearly.

When I came home, I hastily took my shoes and socks off, threw my jacket on the same chair I stumbled towards, and began writing. I must not waste this moment, I thought. I am happy right now. It has been a day; it has been a day full of love and laughter. There is nothing in me that would waste it. No, ma’am, I would sit down and write about it all. I would sit and write and keep writing until I fell asleep.

Bookmark #562

I walked to the coffee shop after dinner, a hoodie over whatever I was wearing, part out of habit, and part out of duty, instilled in me like a hangover from years before when I pretended to live like a writer and wrote barely enough to call myself one. Now, I live like a person and be that as it may, I know I must sit and write, come hell or high water. I am so awake, at all times, so brutally awake that I see everything, I see words in silence, and I see meaning in banality, and I am so tired, at all times, so brutally tired that I do not want to look at it, and I want to go to sleep and do nothing else, nothing else at all. And then, I realise I can do none of those things. I can only stay suspended in the middle. There is a tendency in me to seek balance, and there is a tendency in me to struggle to find it. At first, I think of this, and it bothers me, but then I remember all questions are tunnels and all answers wait at the end. All answers mandate crawling to them. There is no other way. And if you cannot crawl, you must at least be willing to walk a mile or two to get coffee. It’s a start, and it gets you somewhere. On most days, it is more than enough: to arrive somewhere.

It was ten at night. Well, two minutes to ten. I sat on the white patio chair, sipping coffee and yawning myself into oblivion. I thought of how there are answers we all find and then quarrel over. “We have crawled and gone through hell for them”, we claim, “they must be the only truth.” For most questions in life, however, there are only two answers: all of them or none of them. For most inquiries about how we carry ourselves, the answer is neither what you believe in nor I; the answer is both at the same time or none. On most days, the only single solution to most questions, as ironic as it appears, is the prospect of another equally correct answer.

But we have walked through the tunnels to reach happiness. How must we lay the sword down? I do not know how, but I reckon it must be in trying to sit and see everything. I wonder if that is why we writers devour coffee, our eyes wide open—we must see everything.

Bookmark #561

There are easy answers to most things in life, and then there are difficult answers, and god forbid I make the easy choice.

Occasionally, I am overwhelmed by my stubbornness, my sticky individuality, and my firm sense of self. I have a habit of making life more difficult for myself. For all its benefits in the individual’s search for truth and goodness, the social maverick lives mostly in public isolation, in crowds but never of them. We do not choose a life of non-conformism, our fate in our hands, without the crutch of borrowed morality. It is instinctual, almost spontaneous and sometimes, I wonder if something is missing in me. Then, I sit by myself and let the thought beat my spirits to death, watching like a helpless spectator. No defier has ever chosen to defy. Their mere existence is defiance. “You always take the hard path”, they tell me, “which is not an error in itself, but why must you?” And I tell them, “but I don’t, I don’t pick at all. I never had a choice in this, and if I did, I made it long ago.”

My identity is a collection of oddities in a box of decisions and consequences. I listen to the jarring silence as I sit and go through it wistfully. Only because of this tendency to walk on my own, only because of this and nothing else, I have no home, and home, for me, is scattered all over. I am a cultural orphan, and all the culture I have is cherry-picked and filtered. All my identity is picked like one picks a language they don’t speak. It has taken me years to get fluent in who I am, yet there is an accent to me. There is an accent that reminds me I come from somewhere still, and I don’t belong there now, and who I am now does not fully belong anywhere. All of who I am comes from this immense cost I continue to pay every day, and it is worth it; it is worth paying the price. But there are moments where we all sit and ponder how different things would be if we had been any different, and all of us think of this, knowing all too well that we are who we are, and that is the gist of it.

There is a soft rebellion in me. I do not know what to do about it. There is no fight to fight, only a life to live, and I live it; goodness knows, I live it.

Bookmark #560

We tend to be reflective when we sit on a bus, going nowhere and somewhere simultaneously. I reckon this parallel, and of course, the sheer lack of things to do, puts us in a state where we sit and remember. Before I boarded the bus, I carried a book and made sure I had enough music to listen to. I never got around to reading the book, and I listened to the music as you heard a word of advice you did not ask for, feigning attention and letting it wash away into the background noise like a rather excited river pouring into the sea, disappearing into it.

During this time, I somehow navigated backwards through all my steps, years, and tire tracks I had left behind; I traced it all to a moment I don’t quite remember, for we remember things unclearly after some time. And as more years pass, it gets even harder to trust your ability to remember something. We tend to put a layer of fresh paint and varnish on memories now and then. One cannot be too sure about how one remembers things. In any case, I remembered looking at someone—another person, a living human being with their own life and dreams and hopes—and thinking they were the answer. I did not know what they were an answer to, and I did not care enough about it to ask. I thought it was good as long as I had an answer.

Years have passed, and having danced through the fire and reached the greenest clearing in the history of all clearings, I now sat on a bus on the anniversary of the death of the life I never had. I sat there having asked the questions, and I sat there having answered them all. I knew, in my heart, that what seemed like an answer once was only procrastination. Like how a band-aid falls off on its own because the wound demands greater healing, the answer I so desperately sought had ripped itself off and fallen behind without my realising it.

This was all some time ago, of course, and I did not want to think more about it lest I got my spirits down. There was still time for questions and time to answer them, and even though my curiosity was more ravenous than ever, I was not desperate to look for answers in other people. So, I dozed off and let the bus carry me. What else was there to do?

Bookmark #559

The more years pass, the more my appetite for silence and peace grows. I want to devour the calm on a regular day, and I wish to drown in the banal conversation that seems to go nowhere and everywhere all at once. When you start out in the world, straight out of school or college, you do not imagine your ideal day to consist of nothing but some coffee, some drinks, some talk, some work and some chores. Then, you spend some years and realise you would make a blood oath with the devil and trade your soul for an hour-long afternoon nap. I began my twenty-sixth year here on a bus, and then, I arrived wherever I was to arrive, and I slept through the afternoon. I would not have spent this time doing anything else. But do not mistake my nonchalance for lack of cheerfulness. There is cheer in the air, and there is laughter, and there is joy, and all of it is wrapped in the net of a quiet understanding, with a bow of contentment sealing the present. What more do I need, I wonder? And I hear the absent whisper of silence.

As the bus cruised through the night and the lifelessness of empty cities, I stared out the window. I looked at it all—the rows of trees punctuated by rows of shuttered-down stores, and I thought about life. As much as I wanted to write it down, there was no coherence to what I felt, so I decided to keep my words away, tucked and folded under the clothes in my backpack. Then, for a good hour or two, I kept staring outside amidst my fellow passengers’ snoring, the intermittent honking and the obnoxiously raucous conversation between the bus driver and conductor—a welcome contrast to the silence, like a broad brush stroke on a blank canvas. Then, I dozed off, and it was early in the morning, and I was in another city on another day.

Nothing was grand about this, nothing remarkable either. Most things in life are things you can comment on, but there must be moments that merely exist, and they are part and parcel of being alive, of living. Nothing you can say about them makes them any larger or smaller than they are in themselves. They just are, like we just are, and as much as we want to believe otherwise, that is more than enough.

Bookmark #558

I sit at the bus station, waiting for the bus to park in its bay, and as one has little to do in these situations, I sip tea from a small paper cup and think about coming and going. Almost two years ago, I came to my hometown amidst the most uncertain time in the world, like many others. I had left my job behind, I had left my friends behind, and I had left a life behind. A living, breathing life with potential and a path ahead. And as one often plans in these situations, to feel a semblance of control when there is none, I planned to stay for six months, with a certain hope that things would settle down and I would leave again. Of course, when nothing is up to us, no plan comes to fruition, and this decision, or lack thereof, was two years ago.

Now, I have built a life in the city I grew up in, and as I have changed, so has the town. Neither of us is the same, and for some reason, I can’t imagine myself parting ways again. Perhaps, this happens when you can see a good present and an even better future. Like how you meet an old friend after years and slowly ask questions to get acquainted with this new person you still remember, I have befriended this city once again. I have an apartment, some friends and a living, breathing life once again—the one I did not plan on. Yesterday, I renewed my lease for another year, and even though it was a lease for a flat, it very much felt like a lease for the life I have now, which may be why my thoughts have only revolved around the coming, the going and now, the staying. I have never once been able to say that I stay somewhere. Perhaps, a part of me has always been afraid to stay put; I have always wanted so much from life.

Now, as I sit here on a dilapidated plastic chair, happy to leave for a vacation and even happier to come back, I realise I still don’t have everything I have ever wanted, and something tells me I never will. But, I have something here which I have searched far and wide enough for. It occurred to me yesterday how I have always been more than ready to leave. But my joy only arrived when I decided to stay.

Bookmark #557

Everything looks more beautiful in autumn, even the quiet moment you spend sitting near the window, sipping coffee on a hazy weekend afternoon, covered in all the sun the world can muster. Yes, even that, even sitting by yourself and doing nothing looks better. The aesthetic of loneliness is purely about the season one feels lonely in. When it is snowing, and even if it does not snow, the loneliness in winter is dark, it is dry and dreary, and of course, it is cold. In summer, the loneliness is loud and spent on expensive brunches and drinking during the day. In summer, we do not know that we are lonely; if we do, we do not pay attention to it as often. For spring and monsoon, the loneliness looks alike. You spend your days engulfed in the offerings of the world; it is all a bit too much, and it is tucked away in public moments, hidden, of course, but out in the open: in gardens and picnics and colour, or under the generous cover of the bus stop with a hot, paper cup of coffee in your hands, waiting for the rain to stop. Only in autumn does loneliness look gorgeous. It feels warm, and it looks golden, magical. It is in these months, and these months alone, that one can feel lonely and not get any guilt. The world around us burns in brown and red and orange, and it says, burn along, no one is watching, no one is watching.

Now, I do not mean to imply I am lonely. I have not felt loneliness since last autumn, but then, all of us feel it now and then. It does not mean we are lonely; it only means we have felt what everyone feels for a bit, and then we have gone about our business. It is moments of repose, of inactivity and inaction where I feel this, and I reckon, where all of us feel it. It is when we have a second to regroup our senses, and then, as we are entirely present with ourselves—an event rarer than one might think—we realise there is no one but us in this journey through time, that even if there are other people, they are lonely in the precise same way: in moments, sparingly, intermittently, and then, all at once.