Mirrors have strange qualities. They reflect and they invert. Every person becomes a mirror to at least one of another’s traits.
I’m lying on a beach bed, sipping a beer. I have run away, all by my lonesome, to a beautiful resort in a small Goan village. Everything I need, and more, is right here. My insecurities lie abandoned, hundreds of miles away, in a home I may not return to, in a city that no longer feels mine, and unnoticed by friends that once felt like home.
I watch gorgeous young bodies tanning in the sun, flaunting taut stomachs and flawless skin, and I have no inhibitions and not a care in the world. But I watch healthy minds wasting on beach beds, browning, browning, and I wonder what they contemplate when they lie beneath the sun all day long, I wonder what happens of the endless rumination, and I wonder where it all goes. And I look down at my own self, and look, I am still tightly wound, the strings still threaten to unravel at the first pull, and still I continue to stack the blocks, waiting for the game board to collapse.
And then I see it, the inversion, my mirrors by the seaside. There’s the crowd, in twos and threes, and then there’s me, the outsider with no category. I have seen my reflection, now that I’ve stopped trying to belong. I have learnt something from the ocean. I hold up a mirror to the ocean, but my reflection stays invisible until called into existence.
I have always wondered what it is about escape that makes it so inevitably attractive.
I thought I was a Carrie as I sat writing and smoking cigarettes full of tar in the balcony of my expensive sea-facing room. But after a long walk and intense reflection in front of a mirror, I feel more like the old man from Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, the Sea – the sixty-year-old, retired ex-playwright who moves into a little cottage by the sea and begins to pen down his memoirs, yet drifting, always drifting from the storyline and looping back to begin over, and finally letting his past drag him back.
I think it is the city that brings out our vices and our insecurities. The city me is awkward, clumsy, angry, depressed, spiteful, egoistic, weak, helpless. Back home, I die a little every day. Back home it is always night, and the night brings no sleep, and there’s darkness hanging from the ceiling and descending onto your fingertips. Back in the city, mirrors are magic; selfies they are called and they cover up blemishes, haze over the corpulence, and reflect distortions of the truth.
The seaside me is, well, happy. The ocean has been a far better mirror. I can hear the chirps in my head again, I can even dance to the brass beats of my mind. I may still be dying, but I am living a little as I die. I may still hate myself, but I am letting the ocean, the wind and the solitude love me just a little.
When I was little, I once slipped and nearly fell into the valley.
We were traveling along the western coast, me, my Dad, his two best friends, and their families. It was the middle of summer, and everywhere it was scorching hot. It was an annual thing, the three families on a coastal road trip. Mothers with their sun hats, us girls in frilly frocks and the fathers looking more relaxed than they did all year round.
On this particular afternoon, we had stopped at the high point of a mountain pass. We stretched our legs, admired the scenery. We watched the river flow far beneath us in the valley. We drank some water, we cracked our backs, we laughed. We may have clicked some photographs. And then, I slipped and nearly fell into the valley.
It happened so fast that no one screamed. One by one, they turned to stare at the spot I was standing before disappearing out of sight as if they were watching a magic show and were waiting for a rabbit to be pulled out from a hat. One by one, the faces appeared, peering down from the side of the road.
I still remember my Dad’s face. It was not worried. He looked down at me, a few feet below, where I hung on for dear life to a creeper growing out of the side of the mountain. My Dad had known I was safe. He lay flat on the road and gave me a hand. His friends did the same thing, and together they pulled me back up.
When I had both feet back on the ground, my Dad smirked at me. There was no dramatic hugging and thanking God I was alive and well. I smiled back at him, got into the car, and we drove on, just like folks on a vacation, chattering about film stars, the weather and whose turn it was to play songs on the cassette player. Nothing amiss had happened that day. Life goes on, and sometimes a kid nearly falls into a valley. No biggie.
When I started this blog about three years ago, I only wanted to express myself, I needed a vent, something to do, something to care about. I was looking for someone who might empathize, who might be going through the same thing I was, and more importantly, people who would not pass judgments. 60 blog posts and 315 readers later, I realised, blogging had became all about showcasing my writing. Carefully treading the thin line between truth and fiction, the focus gradually shifted from needing a means of expression to trying to evolve as a writer. As if opening my eyes after an extended period of darkness, today I once again felt the need to simply express, to write only for myself, without trying to create a masterpiece.
I feel happy today. Perhaps the reason is something as superficial as – it’s the weekend! and I roamed the city like a free bird this cold winter morning, feeling the warmth of early sunrays caressing my face. I hit a couple of minor snags, potential dangers to my mood upswing – I sneezed 72 times (goddamn dust allergies), and, courtesy the new wave of black money eradication that’s gripped the nation, I waited 3 hours in line at the bank (which, I must say, was quite entertaining to the people around me, since I finished Tina Fey’s Bossypants laughing my ass off and grooving to Tool) – as I said, these were minor incidents, I wasn’t about to let anything get to me.
My mind was at peace. No restless drumming of fingers on the table, no sudden bouts of anxiety, and, thank God, no depression relapse or drooping self-confidence. It was calm inside, and laughter on the outside. Not particularly wanting to dwell upon the past few months, I can only be grateful for days like these, and hope they stay as long as possible.
They all see me stumbling blindfolded, scraping knees and elbows, dashing right into trees and rocks… And they think, for sure I am falling, falling into the valley below with no hope for survival. They look at me and wonder: I have my hands free, why don’t I take off my blindfold and open my eyes? Why don’t I look at the bodies below, the very people who had veered off the road and fallen to their destinies?
I have two options. I can meekly accept ‘my destiny’, this road that they have chosen for me. Or, I can suck in my gut and tell them that my chosen road is down that valley, to cross into new horizons. That I am not falling, but if I do fall, at least I tried.
What then, becomes of me who stands against this so-united world in their attempt to tame me, to rein the wildness within? Isolation.
Homi Adajania’s video ‘My Choice’ on ‘Women Empowerment’ featuring Deepika Padukone and 99 other women, has gone viral, which was what they wanted, but has created an outrage, which was not perhaps what they expected.
Deepika, looking gorgeous as always, says things like ‘My body, my mind, my choice’. She goes on to say that the kind of dress she wears, what time she comes home, whether ‘to love temporarily or lust forever’, ‘to have sex before marriage, outside of marriage or to not have sex at all’, is her choice. That, according to her is women empowerment.
I think everyone agrees that the video has nothing to do with women empowerment. She seems to have taken the opportunity to tell the world, ‘Yes, I am bold enough to think about running around naked, coming home at whatever time I want, choosing not to have a baby, or even having sex outside of marriage.’ The video has taken the word ‘empowerment’, and flung it far and wide, beyond the focus of the camera lens, where even Deepika’s billowing hair cannot reach.
That said, I may then say that the video was an attempt to make Indian women aware that they do have a choice, and to tell them to make their own choices. A choice to not have a baby if they don’t want it, to not have sex if they don’t want to, to dress the way they like as long as they are comfortable with it. 99 women are not in the video to simply fill up the edits in Deepika’s footage; they are independent women with strong personal opinions of their own.
People have focused way too much on the ‘having sex outside of marriage’ part. I did not hear Deepika say, “You should have sex outside of marriage.” She merely states that it is a choice. Yes, a choice to cheat is incredibly selfish, and will probably shatter your partner’s life. But it is, after all, a choice. The woman (or man) who chooses to cheat knows somewhere deep down, the repercussions of such a decision. I do not think Deepika meant to say that a woman can cheat and get away with it, or that a woman is allowed to cheat but a man isn’t.
It’s a choice. I’ve been on both ends of the cheating cane. It hurts, sure. A simple message expressing that he wants to be with her, how he longs to take her in his arms… is enough. Enough to realize you are faced with a choice to give him another chance, or to leave him. The choice to cheat is simpler. You don’t cheat if you’re happily committed to your partner. Making a choice to cheat, in my opinion, says you do not care enough, or that in your mind, you two are already broken up.
There is enough grey between being faithful and cheating. In the end it all comes down to what choices you make.
It was almost like a summer romance; a friendship that was as sudden and unlikely as rains in March. The three of us first met on a train speeding to Delhi – the start to an awesome trek in the Himalayas. One was a lanky curly-haired boy of 21, who alternated dangerously between acting like he’s five, or getting lost deep in thought. The other was a sweet-looking helpful girl who I didn’t really interact with during the trek… Not in my wildest dreams did I think three such varied individuals would become inseparable within less than a month’s time.
It began simply for one reason, that of the trekking group of 15 or so, we were the only three people who had ‘time’ on our hands. We were all unemployed; I was awaiting professional qualification after which I was sure to start job-hunting, and these two were 2 years younger than me and had much lesser worries of education and jobs.
And so it began. We were like three forever-hungry and almost-always-broke teenagers, and on most days we had no option but to lock ourselves in my room, shut the blinds and watch back-to-back movies, since we could not afford going out. On lucky days when one of us had some money, we treated ourselves to chicken subs and wraps, and that too secretly, as it was in addition to what my Mom used to prepare for lunch.
Now, I had already realized that living with the parents past The Twenties is a big disadvantage. To top that, these two taking up residence plus dining in my room, was maddening enough for my parents, but they were pretty much helpless, save the weekly fights we had on the ‘kind of friends I bring into the house’, and how ‘I was wasting my life’. Nothing unusual there…
We all knew this was short-lived, and would come to an end once one of us started working, or my parents decided to throw us all out, whichever happened earlier. We thus had an unspoken pact to spend every waking moment together. We prepared bucket lists of movies and series to watch, and devoured brilliant films of every possible genre, day after day.
The evenings were the highlight of our time together. The best part about my building is a terrace on the 10th floor, which has a splendid view of mountains and city lights around the necklace-shaped bend in the road on one side, and speeding lights of cars zooming down the highway on the other. It was this terrace that had become our sanctuary, and here we retreated to enjoy our evenings with delicious chicken steamed Momos, and some John Mayer playing in the background.
Conversations were never needed on such evenings. We were dreamers, artists in our own ways. Silence itself was our conversation, and we were often at peace, lost in synchronized thoughts, perhaps… When the moon rose and the sky reminded us of the nights spent in the Himalayas under a glorious blanket of stars, I knew we all felt that connection some alive within us.
Looking back on those days right now, I would honestly be perplexed at how we spent 2 months doing absolutely nothing productive or worthwhile to boast of. But then I remember the laughs, the music, the fights, the wrestling, occasional partying, and I know they were magical days we may never get back… A life-long summer friendship, and some moments of peace that vanish in a heartbeat…
Housing.com is this new wonderful thing on real estate that everyone’s been talking about… Although personally I doubt I could find something there as wonderful as my terrace and these long-past moments with friends!