Fluid…tere badan pe fisalti pani…oh meri rani

{{{Lets go, get up, get up…oh meri rani…teri jawani….get up get up}}}
[Translation: {{{Lets go, get up, get up…oh my Queen…young lady…get up get up}}}]

{{{{6:00 am, Monday}}}}

Just like any other day, today I woke up to that insufferable alarm tune blaring at my bedside: {{{Lets go…teri jawani…get up get up get up}}}

It’s one of Honey Singh’s songs and I, many months back, had even enjoyed dancing to its beats in any number of house-parties and nightclubs before I decided to set it as my alarm tune and thus rendered it utterly irritating. But, something about today made me feel curiously different about the song, about myself, and I actually felt like I could groove to that beat all over again.

“Good morning, World!” I uttered, half-asleep yet uncannily upbeat, trying to heave myself off the bed. It was still pretty dark in the room as the early morning winter rays were too weak to penetrate the thick, layered curtains of my ornate bedroom. Standing on the cold hard floor on my bare legs I shuffled the rug about to spot my phone which was still playing the muffled *get up get up get up* song. After a good thirty seconds of shuffling and shoving the rug about cautiously (so as not to send my iPhone 6 crashing helplessly to the floor), I managed to locate it and put the alarm to rest. But, by then the beat of the song had percolated deep into my brain and it was gonna play on a loop in my head for the livelong day.  I didn’t mind one bit as I felt it was cool to be able to enjoy an alarm tune. It was a rare privilege. After all, all alarm tunes are insufferable but to listen to an ex-favorite song every day in the alarm-avatar is a daily tragedy. But, today was not one of those tragic days, I felt. The next moment, I was grooving and jiving  in the shower as I easily recalled the lyrics to the song which aptly went: *tere badan pe fisalta pani / kasam khuda ki aag lagati / oh meri rani, teri jawani / get up get up get up wooh* [Translation: *The water dripping and slipping over your body / By God, it’s flaming hot / Oh my Queen, young lady/ get up get up get up wooh*] My pet name being Rani (which means ‘Queen’), all of a sudden and all over again, I felt like the song was written about me. And, staring at myself in the large-sized bathroom mirror from under the hot shower, I couldn’t help appreciating my body and the lyrics *your round round booty / your lips so juicy / tere badan pe fisalta pani / kasam khuda ki aag lagati* “Wow, I actually embody the song, don’t I!” I thought with brimming pride.

After a prolonged shower, I rushed out back into the cold bedroom with only a towel wrapped around, turned the lights on, walked into the closet and out quickly with a dry-cleaned business suit. I am extra-careful about the colors I choose, the buttons, the lengths and the cuts. They all play a vital role in the outcome of a business meeting, more than even the graphs and  ideas splashed about on the projected screen, believe it or not. So, I picked out a pantsuit of a silvery grey hue, with a short-sleeved silk white sweater to go underneath, for today. My fashion sense is not all that great by real world standards but it is considered ‘high fashion’  at my conservative workplace. I was a regular nerd at college, with a brag-worthy GPA, unsocial social circle and rudimentary fashion sense. Just regular. Then I made a bunch of artsy female friends at the business school I went to after college and learnt a thing or two about functional fashion knowledge. Now I’m approaching thirty, embracing the 3 Fs – fashion, femininity and finance; and working in the finance industry, by the way. And you would’ve guessed by now, from all the clues I inadvertently dropped so far, the glaring fact that I am single. There’s no Prince Charming in my story; no Raja (meaning: King) sleeping next to this Rani in that ornate bedroom. I sleep single, shower single, and ride the metro to work and back single. And, what’s more, I’d like to keep it that way.

I jostled my way into my usual 7:10 metro train and got a standing spot among the sweaty, smelly office-going crowd. “May be the government should hand out free one-time-use deodorant sticks at every station like how they dispensed Nirodh condoms at one time. Yeah, that would actually fit into the ongoing ‘Clean India Campaign’!” I chuckled at my own idea. I could reach office right on time if there were no unexpected technical snags on the line today. “That’s the only thing that could fuck my day up – a technical snag on the metro line – god forbid,” I whispered to myself. At the next station, a good chunk of the sweaty mass moved out and created breathing space around me. There was still no place to sit though. Three more stations to go and twenty minutes to the meeting. At the next station, as the automatic doors of the metro swung open, a gust of cold breeze hit me right in my face and also swept in an irritating office colleague from a different department.

A short, stubby fellow who seemed to have shrunk in height due to the winters. We interacted once or twice in the boardroom as representatives of our respective departments while updating the CEO about our key targets and achievements; and that was the length and breadth of our acquaintance. He was in my face already before I could rub my nose, wipe off the tears from my eyes and recover from the attack of the cold wave. He was what the ladies in his department called ‘a misogynist, male chauvinist swine’. “Hi, too sensitive to the cold, eh Boss?” said he seething with male pride, seeing that the cold breeze disheveled me but not him. (By the way, ‘boss’ was not to indicate that I was his superior at work but it was his way of saying ‘pal’ or ‘mate’ and that’s how he referred to all people in informal settings, from rickshaw-pullers to pizza delivery boys to air-hostesses to workplace colleagues. “Boss, how much for extra cheese and mayonnaise dip?”, “Boss, can you get me a glass of water when the flight takes off?” etc.) I swallowed a “Fuck off” and didn’t bother to respond. I instead focused on the song playing in my head.

He pursued the one-sided conversation with, “You are looking different today, Boss; not in a bad way certainly; there’s something different but I can’t quite put a finger on it,” stressing on ‘CAN’T QUITE PUT A FINGER ON IT’. I may have been imagining the lewd stress on the last part of his sentence, given his reputation. So, I flashed a brief courtesy smile in his direction, in the manner of acknowledging a compliment, and looked away. “The word ‘finger’ can be made to sound so sleazy”, I thought. ‘Finger’ is as smutty a word as it is innocent, if you think about it. ‘Digit’ takes the smut away. ‘Finger’, on the other hand (figuratively speaking), is crude and nasty. It’s an essential prop in all manner of pornography. More than lips, hips, sexual organs, it is the fingers that run the show. A ‘finger’ is a secondary pleasure center. It’s like a sex-wand almost, almost rival to..to..the penis..the phallus. Oh wait, of course, a finger is THE quintessential phallic symbol. It’s got the length, the texture, the colour, the sense of touch…it’s the closest possible mimic of the male member. Obviously. I came to the obvious in a roundabout way.” Another station passed by.

“Boss, water?” he asked, unscrewing the cap of his water bottle. “Boss, would you like some water?” he inquired, tapping on my shoulder with the tips of his fingers when I pretended to not hear him the first time. The short man removed his fingers off my suit when I seemed to turn towards him. I said, “No, I got my own water, thank you.” I didn’t feel thirsty was what I wanted to say but somehow I said “my own water”. The use of the words “my own water” was stupid. “How could anyone OWN water! That was an unsavory use of words, Rani. May be every drop of water becomes the property of the drinker of it and one can’t own it before drinking it. Argh! Own water, own air, own planet…ridiculous concepts. I should have said “my own bottle” or better, “not thirsty” instead of “my own water”. I can’t now turn back and eat my words, or undo history. May be, I can make up for my puerile use of words by saying a kind word or two, for my sake,” I decided.

Thinking thus I turned back towards him. He was drinking his “own water” from his “own water-bottle” without making contact between his mouth and the bottle, by raising the bottle high up above his head and letting the water pour out of the nozzle into the widened mouth of his upward-looking face, through the intervening medium of air, the way conservative Indian men and women are wont to do, for fear of religious defilement rather than fear of germs. I waited for him to put the bottle down in a moment and at that precise moment, there was a jerk and jolt in the metro, a sudden power shutdown, darkness, screeching halt, and a cold splash of water all over my suit from my work-colleague’s “own water-bottle”. “Shit! Shit! Shit! a technical snag!” I shouted in the dark. Light from mobile phone screens of co-passengers started flashing across the dark compartment and through the general commotion I could hear a voice directed towards me – my infamously sexist colleague asking me, “Did I just MAKE YOU WET, Boss?” It was clearly an unintended innuendo but it made me mad.

“I am definitely going to be late for the meeting today,” I surmised. “But hey, it’s hardly my fault,” or, so I justified my time management skills. The water was beginning to soak into the suit and drip down my body and I could feel every bead of water running down the front portion of my body, tracing the entire length from neck to lower abdomen. The song started in my head again *tere badan pe fisalti pani / oh meri rani* “Yes, the song itself  is accentuating the parody that my current ‘wet’ situation is to my early morning’s ‘hot’ shower scene,” I observed to myself. At the same time, as the water dripped down the skin beneath my silk sweater, I realized how water or any fluid stands for ‘continuity’. Continuous, yet separate, at the same time. Every drop magically merges into the next and yet it doesn’t hesitate to separate. Fluid, merging, separable, like the colors of a rainbow, like space and time, like human behavior, like gender itself. Well, we all know gender is fluid, right? Another station passed by, nobody entered or exited my coach.

The fluidity of genders is obvious to me as the fluidity of water. I didn’t have to take up gender studies at college or binge-read books like ‘Middlesex’ to get it. But, what escapes me is the hypocrisy of binary gender rules. There is a ‘He’ and a ‘She’ and every thing else is an inanimate ‘it’. There ought to be a range of ever-evolving pronouns to bridge the gap between the static poles of human pronouns. Just like irrational numbers between two whole numbers. Hell, even the number system is revealed to be fluid after Class 5 in school. What if irrational numbers, decimals and all such oddities which are not ‘natural’ numbers were excluded by the ‘men’ and ‘women’ of society, of science, when they came up with number systems. Why was it so natural for them to accept the unnatural numbers but not so to accept  supposedly ‘unnatural’ genders! Why haven’t the ‘natural’ genders agitated in all of history against the programmed inhuman exclusion of the ‘others’ who fill the gaps between the opposite poles..who provide the continuum between the violet and red ends of the rainbow of human gender! It’s a shame that the ‘other genders’ and ‘other sexualities’ are  all crammed into the innocuous-sounding umbrella term ‘third gender’ and double-shame that it is recognized in this part of the world in as late as 2014 A.D. It’s like saying we pledge to  accept all ‘irrational numbers’ as the Nth number from 2014 A.D. It’s a shameful reflection of the regressive attitudes of all the previous generations and the present one that such a conservative step towards inclusive growth in 2014 A.D. is looked upon as inclusivity or progress at all today. How could all the scientists, linguists, historians, writers, thinkers, philosophers, or anybody to do anything with the written word, be so blind and unmoved all these centuries by the ever-so-obvious and numerous gender anomalies, that they could deliberately exclude the fluidity of genders with the rigid adherence to ‘he’ and ‘she’ in language! What if I refuse to be a feminist and go beyond feminism and refuse to be a ‘he’ or a ‘she’ or an ‘it’. What if there is a Pronoun Revolution! Would that bring out the acknowledgement of fluidity of gender into common human discourse and collective conscience of the public? Would it? Would it?” The lights in the train came back on.

The train started moving. Every body was at ease again in the compartment. It was all a matter of seven minutes but I was definitely going to be late for the meeting. My station was now just a minute away. I bent down towards my bag (which was resting against my leg on the floor of the compartment) and pulled out the water-bottle from it as I was beginning to feel thirsty. All of a sudden my colleague squealed in excitement: “Boss, I know what’s different! You are taller than usual today!” Having said that, he as well as I looked down at my footwear in unison, as if we were a detective-duo, like Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence, or if you prefer, Richard Castle and Kate Beckett, who’ve had the exact same brainwave at the exact same moment. Both of us kept staring at my gorgeous brown pumps for a good fifteen seconds. For a while, I did not realize what was odd. But my heart started pounding in my throat at the sight of the brown leather-work. I got it soon enough.

He looked up at me and then I at him. There was a medley of shock, confusion, disgust, hatred and condescension in the way he looked at me. I was petrified. All I could hear him say was, “Mr. Sen, you are…” and the next station was there already, the last station on the line, our station, and we both flowed out onto the platform in the direction of the moving crowd. I couldn’t spot him thereafter.

His “Mr. Sen…” kept ringing in my ears. I reached my office building which was just outside the station. I couldn’t see him there either, nowhere within my field of vision. I stood at the building gate as if I was forbidden by the natural law of the land to enter that building. Like an outcast. I looked down at my shoes again. I couldn’t dare to go inside the building. Standing there, I pictured my colleague telling every soul in office what he witnessed on the metro today. “Rani, just fucking go back to the apartment in an auto-rickshaw and call in sick today,” persuaded my inner voice. Just as I turned, an auto-rickshaw stopped near where I stood and the driver asked, “Where to, Sir?” I was tongue-tied. His “Sir” pierced my conscience. “M.G. Road, Street No. 4,” I said blankly and got in. I didn’t dare look down at my brown peep-toe pumps and the red nail colour peeping through them, for I was afraid the auto-driver would also look down and deny me a ride.

“Sir, if you don’t mind I’ll make a short stop at the Hanuman Temple, just for one minute, if you are not in a hurry?” he queried. I said, “I don’t, take your time.” He parked his black and yellow vehicle at the side of the road and all I could think of when he was away was that may be he went to bring some men along to beat me to my death; that may be the reason I didn’t have to call for an auto and the reason he stopped the auto-rickshaw was that he noticed a ‘Queen’ in ladies’ shoes in the middle of the road and decided to eliminate ‘it’; may be I should get down and escape; may be he really went to the temple and if I get down now he’d notice my shoes and call out to hooligans to beat this freak-show to death. Hearing the temple bells made me think that may be I should pray to God…may be it’s at times like these that one prays to God but then, those who pray to God do so everyday so that at times like this God actually comes to their aid even if they don’t pray to him at these times; so, by that logic, God wouldn’t give a shit to this irreligious prayer of mine, I concluded. I closed my eyes and appealed to the Universe, to the pure miracle of space and time and lucky coincidences and serendipity.

When I opened my eyes after a few minutes, the auto-driver was back in his seat, was adjusting his rear-view mirror and I felt enormously relieved to find that there were no hooligans or hockey-sticks. He asked, “Sir, hope I didn’t take too long?” I said, “No, but can we go a little faster..I am in a bit of a hurry.” I got down at my destination, paid him off hurriedly, hoping that no one should notice my attire mismatch. The elevator was all mine all the way up to my flat on the 23rd floor. The whole building was in fact wearing a deserted look. I unlocked my apartment, locked it behind me as I entered and dashed into my bedroom. It was still dark inside because of the curtains. I chose to keep the lights off. I took off my shoes – flung them into a corner with force – then my belt, then my masculine blazer, shirt and pants. I put on a gender-neutral set of T-shirt and shorts. I could recall the childhood jeers at school, “He is a fucking queen. Not Rajat or Raja, dude. He is Rani. Ha ha ha.” At home I was alternately called Raja and Rani, to make me feel accepted and loved and self-assured, given my propensity to be fluid. “Rani, come help me in the kitchen please if you’re done with homework,” my mother would say. My father, who secretly resented my fluidity, would playfully challenge, “Raja, I’ll get you a new makeup kit if you can beat me at chess today.” Home, sweet home.

Lying motionless on my bed, I could hear the mocking voices from past, present and future. “I was in a hurry, that’s all. I wore the wrong shoes to work. I picked out the correct suit, shirt and cologne too but I slipped up at the footwear. I picked my party shoes, by mistake, ’cause I was happy and absent-minded. It’s okay. It is not a sin or a crime.” Inside my apartment, just as at home, I was no more Mr. Rajat Sen; I am Rani, or maybe I am just ‘it’, or whoever or whatever I wanted to be from one day to the next, from one fluid moment to another, just flowing and ebbing between ostensible masculinity and ostensible femininity. “Even the ocean flows and ebbs. And every human being is 70% water. Nature is the best teacher, said H. W. Longfellow, for precisely this reason. The ocean is never still. It is continuously ebbing and flowing and tidal movement often brings up beautiful, mysterious treasures from deep within,” I thought. That thought propelled me to activity. I got out of bed and retrieved my phone from my gray blazer. I called my boss.

He picked the phone almost instantly as if he was awaiting my call. I told him that I had to stay home for the day due to a personal emergency.  He asked me firmly if I was under psychological stress. I said, “No, I am not. I’d come back to work tomorrow as usual.” After a moment of hesitation, my boss said, “Er, um, I heard from Mr. Mukherji that he spotted you on the train today on his way to work and you were dressed in female attire. If that’s true, we are worried if you may be under stress and, perhaps, would like to see a counselor about any psychological issues you may be facing. It’s fully covered by the company, let me assure you.” I said, “No, I am feeling perfectly normal.” My boss, in a sterner tone, asked, “Are you a cross-dresser, Rajat?” I said, “No, I am much more than that. I wouldn’t actually fit into that narrow terminology you invented to make sense of your own limited, confused, repressed worldview. Am I getting an off today? Shall I come back to work tomorrow?” He hung up without waiting one extra second. An hour or so later, the HR department called me and a morose female voice at the other end of the line said, “Mr. Rajat Sen? Hi, I am Meenakshi, the HR Head at XYZ. I would like to meet you tomorrow about your termination process with XYZ. Kindly come to Cabin Number 377, Tower 3 at 9 a.m.  Thank you for your time.” There went the job. It felt peculiarly liberating to let go of the job, to let go of the pretense, to let go of the exclusionists who were forever striving to shut the door on the ‘others’.

Then the doorbell rang. I shuddered. I tip-toed to the peephole and saw that it was the watchman. “Did the watchman notice too?”, “What if he complained to the landlord and the landlord decided to evict me?”, “What if the whole building looked empty earlier because all the men and women were in a meeting with the landlord, discussing about my secret fluidity?”, “Would I be homeless too by the end of the day?” I opened the door determined to face my fears. The indolent watchman slipped an envelope into my hands and without saying a word, left. I tore the envelope open and unfolded the piece of paper in it feverishly. It read: “Water Bill”. A poetic touch and a perfect finish to this amusing anecdote. “Water Bill” made me laugh so hard and I am still laughing while typing out this hilarious account of my curiously upbeat day.

* Tere badan pe fisalta pani / Oh meri rani, teri jawani / Lets go, get up get up get up *

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Micchami Dukkadam

Khamemi Savve Jiva
Savve Jiva Khamantu me
Mitti me Savva Bhooesu
Veram Majjham Na Kenvi
Michchhami Dukkadam

The above literally translates to:

I forgive all living beings.
May all souls forgive me,
I am on friendly terms with all,
I have no animosity toward any soul.
May all my faults be dissolved.

                              Thanks to my brush with a particularly specious variety of Jainism which came in the form of a particularly specious boyfriend in an equally specious relationship which ends just about now in my head. R.I.P, Love Affair. It was as a ramification of this acquaintance that I had started to take more than a casual interest in ‘true’ Jain philosophy. To hell with the specious variety that most of the Jains of the day, like this aforementioned ex, have tailored out of real Jainism to suit their non-spiritual needs and ultra-violent desires.
Anyway, today happens to be Jain Samvatsari celebrated as Kshamavani or Forgiveness Day. Like all religious doctrines formulated by thinkers and philosophers such as Buddha, Mahavira, Bodhisattvas, Tirthankara, Prophet Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Forgiveness Day was quite obviously devised and put in place to drive home the psychological concept and virtue of forgiveness; in other words, it was cleverly brought into common conscience to give the common people a taste, on one day of the year, of the benefits of the state of mind of a forgiver. Kinda like a primer. And by driving home this concept, the thought leaders envisaged that subsequent generations of followers would make every day of the year a Forgiveness Day, that they’d absorb the virtue into their spiritual beings (as it fits perfectly with the overall Jain ideology) and that the need for a particular day (of the  year) set apart as Forgiveness Day would fall off eventually like dead skin off a healed wound.
But, as mortifying as it must be for all the dead saints, their subsequent followers (like my specious ex-boyfriend) have perverted the idea of Kshamavani in more than one way in the name of religion. For instance, I can think of two ways off-the-cuff, coming directly from ‘up-close and personal experience’. One of the ways: a specious, deviant Jain would not think it fit to forgive someone or some creature on an ordinary day of the year as he thinks he ought to forgive, if at all, only on Kshamavani! Another of the ways: a specious, perverted Jain would interpret the purpose of Kshamavani as a foolproof license to hurt and torture every living creature all round the year in the expectation of washing all the guilt away on Kshamavani!
What I am trying to say is that I am dismayed at how this perverted set of Jains has totally killed not only Kshamavani but also every single virtuous tenet of Jainism, be it truth or non-violence; my sentiment is succinctly put by Martin Luther King Jr. when he said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
On this day, as henceforth on all other days of the year, I, in the spirit of true humanity, forgive all and seek their forgiveness. Also, I forgive me for cracking under pressure, for having insecurities about my precious identity ever (which has to stop), for giving untrustworthy assholes the benefit of the doubt every single time (which I won’t stop anyway because everyone deserves yet another chance to prove their sincerity and I haven’t yet learnt/identified the limit where one ought to stop giving chances when pleaded with for that ‘one last chance’!). I also forgive, with no reluctance, my specious, insincere, untrustworthy, spineless, unscrupulous, double-dealing ex-boyfriend for every last bit of pain that I took upon myself.

Micchami Dukkadam

Do you know I am going to leave you?

Today. Maybe, tomorrow. One day I am going to leave you and wouldn’t give you a clue. I’m burning all the letters that ever passed between us, one at a time. The letters you sent that summer you were abroad boning that older woman while writing about how much you missed me. The letters you sent from college while you were still figuring out if you’d fallen in love with me. The letters you sent, while you were trying hard to be a kid at heart, from home where you were catching your breath mostly. I tore up all our pictures in half. I flushed down all the little trinkets you called ‘twinkly valentine gifts’ and shed one solid tear to go along. I’m making fast and steady progress, don’t you think? The kids, well, expired. I wonder if you remember how many there were. One sultry Sunday evening we gave birth to four, lying on our bare backs, under the stars. We squeezed in one more a little later that night, and you declared, “let’s have a glorious bundle of five, not four,” because there was still space for one more in the imaginary crib and the imaginary car and we were young enough to accommodate, if only in imagination. It’s not like I had to drown them in the bathtub or anything. I don’t think of them and they don’t exist therefore. One way or another, the physical objects and the imaginary ones are shown the exit door. What would I do with the memories though? They stick on to me like skin. Last Sunday the skin on my fingers got burnt by accident on a hot plate. It pained like hell that day. Over the last one week I couldn’t feel anything on those burnt parts of my hand. But, today when I woke up I saw the skin on those fingers started peeling off painlessly. How do I make the same happen to my memories of you, and your letters, and your trinkets and the babies?
I’m positive I’ll figure out a way soon and the day I do that I would leave you without giving you a clue, just the way you did.

Superman

It’s not because you can get me back the things I lose,
but because you can make them not necessary any more;
it’s not because you can be at two places at once,
but because I can feel you even when you’re not near;
not because you can speak a million languages,
but because you can speak without the need for one;
not because you look younger with every passing day,
but because you are wise beyond your years;
That is why you are my superman.
And, this is not because I’m madly in love with you
but because you really are a superman!

Women I love by Bliss Cua Lim

The following just connected so many dots that I long wanted to connect…Dr Neelakantan’s brief discourse on “sisterhood feminism”, mom’s story about an old woman who was travelling with her puerile husband in the same compartment as mom and the instant where “only women can see the hidden strength with which women deal with the men they love while struggling against servility”…

Thank you for the words, Bliss Cua Lim 🙂

Women I Love
Bliss Cua Lim

Listen:
One afternoon, I saw a woman
lift her head and wonder why no one stood
beside her in the train,
touching the back of her neck or maybe
whispering or smiling into her eyes.
I thought I caught her thinking,
Who sees me?
I knew she craved a lover who would
linger over her body,
cherish her strength,
return her tenderness.
I knew she had not found this love among men.
How like my mother she was.
How thankful I am for the ways
women can sometimes love each other.
There is something truer there than desire.
It is wondrous for me to see a woman
with a child’s delicate ace, and calloused, capable hands.
I love the woman who has strength enough to do anything
except hide her own strength.

I have known women whose laughter was like bells
because you knew they had been wounded before.
I prize women who look best
barefoot in their bedclothes, tousled and tired.
I know women who remember the unremarked beauty of
these tired women.
I understand women who claim to hate children
but shied their nephews from the wrath of loving parents.
And I marvel at the women who serve the men they love
while always struggling against servility.

Their quick anger,
their light slumber,
their early morning voices on the phone.
I love nape and collarbone,
a cheek wet with tears,
the line of the arm, of the ankle,
and the infinite expressiveness of their hands when
they speak,
or touch themselves, or me.

Marginalia by Billy Collins

Never thought I would read a poem about such a trivial subject that goes unnoticed even though one is constantly indulged in marginalia 🙂 Amazing thought, amazing read!

Marginalia
Billy Collins

Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.

Other comments are more offhand, dismissive—
“Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!”—
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
who wrote “Don’t be a ninny”
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.

Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls “Metaphor” next to a stanza of Eliot’s.
Another notes the presence of “Irony”
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.

Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
“Absolutely,” they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
“Yes.” “Bull’s-eye.” “My man!”
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.

And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written “Man vs. Nature”
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.

We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.

Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird singing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page—
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.

And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake’s furious scribbling.

Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page

A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil—
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet—
“Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”

Dream…that’s the thing to do..?

“I’m thinking of you” – these words uttered by a someone can make up for a bundle of sorrows, a whole day of troubles, or even an entire lifetime of woes. All of us wish for these words packaged suitably in love and care to come by from a special someone at some point of our life. Some of us encounter the arrival of the package quite early in life, while some others get it a little late;  the more fortunate ones get it more than once, while the least fortunate ones just die waiting for it. Then again, the ones who do get it may not preserve it or may not be suitably equipped to preserve it. It’s all a complicated affair.

Nevertheless, it’s a great feeling, isn’t it? – to enter into someone’s intimate thoughts and then to come to know from that someone that you are right there, positively meandering through their mental space. I know. Sigh!

Longing is a disease. It afflicts one and all. Longing in love is a sweet pain. Longing for love is a sorrowful pain. Longing to love is a … I don’t know … weird thing but not quite uncommon as I see it. There are many dimensions to this feeling of longing, pining when in love. It’s sweet, it’s painful, it’s secretive to an extent, it can be shared with confidantes and derived pleasure from in some cases, it gives one hope and joy and something to look forward to, it brings meaning to life too in most cases.
Dreams and longing are so intertwined in romantic context that you can’t quite separate one from the other. Strictly speaking, dreams form the part of the ongoing process of longing when one falls asleep, or rather, they are those series of images which are triggered by longing (in the waking state) and which one sees in one’s head (in the sleep state) with absolutely no control over the generation of the content (Thanks to my BSE629 Neurobiology!). Daydreaming is related to dreaming in only as much as images are concerned. Daydreaming is a more voluntary and more positive aspect of longing. It is associated with the actualization of the object that one is longing for. Daydreams add sugar to longing – daydreams embellished with vibrant colors of nature, with music that pulsates with the happy heartbeats, with beauty that brings joy to the soul.

In an age where time is money, how feasible is for one to enjoy this whole phase of  longing with its myriad dimensions and flavors? Highly impractical, we say. This beautiful feeling of longing is being grossly overridden by mind’s occupation with materialistic concerns and worldly responsibilities; and all one can do to celebrate this lingering sensation is take some time out of one’s busy schedule to type in a blog-post like the present one or perhaps, log onto the ever-popular romance-killing stalker’s hub – Facebook – to update status messages . Well, Facebook-bashing is not the point of this post…the point is that I think that all the buried, choked and repressed romantics in us deserve a chance to breathe, a chance to live a bit…hence I see a need to celebrate the sweet melancholy that sits at the heart of a love affair…to do that is simple, natural, needs no teacher, or tutorials, but it’s extant because of the dearth of time for actions that can’t be directly or indirectly valued in monetary terms…the idea is that longing is worth it, we should abandon all care and lose all sense of time, we should embrace longing….longing to be kissed goodnight, longing to get a call back, longing to hear his/her voice on phone just after hanging up, longing to be assured of his/her love again and again, longing for the midnight tryst in the secret scarlet garden, longing for the fulfillment of the tacit promise to meet again the following midnight, longing for the words “I’m thinking of you”…

“Dream, when you’re feeling blue
Dream, that’s the thing to do
Just watch the smoke rings rise in the air
You’ll find your share of memories there”