Mirror – Part 3

People ask me why I keep visiting Goa, over and over. I tell them there are multiple ways to see the same place. Even a mirror reflects only one angle at a time, you need to turn and twist until you see the whole picture.

Goa is a place where energies combine – sex meets spiritualism – and one feels a general sense of belonging. It got me thinking whether it’s the place that makes the people, or is it the other way round? Maybe people don’t really belong to any place, they belong unto themselves. I seem to belong everywhere and nowhere. I constantly find myself in the strange and eccentric company of musicians, poets, models, entrepreneurs, creators, and I am merely the onlooker, the dreamer, the realist, the observer, the invisible writer in a crowd of outliers.

Today I sit in one of the hippest cafès in Goa, typing away on my laptop – the only brown, rotund, tar-smoking, coffee-drinking city-dweller on the brink of death and external existential crisis, among a sea of white, fit, tan hippies smoking pot, braless, fearless, babies on one hip, dreadlocked and loose-lipped, and for a minute I experience the familiar dread of not belonging – but only for a minute. How shallow of me to pass judgment from the outside, how obtuse of me to label the aesthetic as empty shells, for I have found pearls in the most unlikely places.

And so I just relax the furrows on my brow, sink into my chair and put on a smile. At least for this morning, I am comfortable in my own skin and happy to just be me, and for now, that is enough.

Mirror – Part 2

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.


Continue reading Part 3

Mirror – Part 1

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.


Continue reading Part 2

No big deal

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.

Stupor

In a daze I stumbled back to my dorm, stoned on some of the best hash the country had to offer. I crept inside my blanket and began tripping to the breathing of seven men into the silence of the wind. I had surrendered to the daydream delusions and fantasies of my drug-addled brain, when I heard a sob from the bunk above mine. One, then another, until great heaving wails rocked the entire bed, yet the others continued breathing and snoring, as if I was the only one alive or sane enough to hear the sound of grief. Listening to the drunk little boy shaking with tears, I froze within my stupor, unwilling and unable to reach out. I pretended to be asleep, and he continued sobbing into muffled pillows. These are tears of self pity, I thought with disdain. These are not tears where you feel sorry for a three-legged dog or a poor beggar kid; these aren’t tears of losing someone dear or missing someone who is far, far away. These tears were because he felt sorry for himself, sorry for the way he is, sorry for those that were no more in his life, and because he never knew the love of a mother. I knew, and I understood, but I was hardened and he was weak; I despised his tears, I hated a man who could cry unabashed for the man he could not become.

Strangers in sync

It was the fall of 2016. While the temperatures in the Valley were moderate, after sundown, the wind picked up and howled through the trees, making them shiver and shed their autumn foliage. We were bundled up in our winter jackets and scarves, and in search of whiskey to burn our throats and warm our innards. Up in the Himalayan mountains, it is a question of survival; it doesn’t really matter whether you ordinarily drink or not.

It had been a rough hike; with the sun beating down on our backs and sweat soaking through the layers, it was hot enough to experience a stroke. We occasionally sat and cooled off, but this part of the Valley had scant greenery, and sometimes there was not a single tree for miles. We were walking through a landscape of endless mountain ranges of brown and grey, a deserted trail beside a frothing white river and a clear, blue sky; despite the hard terrain, it was achingly, breathtakingly beautiful.

The population of the entire Valley was in four digit numbers, and the locals played host to weary travelers with undisguised delight. Food, water and shelter – your basic needs got taken care of with hardly a dent in your pocket, and beyond that, there was not much you needed, for travelers in the Valley never care for luxuries, rather, they are on the run from it.

After the day’s hike, we had chosen a small hostel on the outskirts of the village; it was cheap, promised decent food and had 5 rooms for rent. We were a strange group – me and my boyfriend, a girl with glasses who wrote poems and skipped stones, two musician guys from Mumbai who had been roaming these parts of the mountain for more than a month now, an American super-athlete couple and a young German girl and her Indian boyfriend who had been volunteering for the past year at a blind kids’ school in rural India. Incidentally, it so happened that that night would be the last time all of us met together in the same place, for the next day, we would all be going different ways.

Our search for a warm beverage proved more than fruitful, for the two Mumbaites not only had a bottle of scotch saved for some such occasion, but also produced some good quality hash, a souvenir of their travels. And so that night, a group of strangers gathered in one of the rooms, lit some candles, poured themselves some scotch, lit a joint, and sat in a circle to swap stories.

Matchmaking

The concept of ‘matchmaking’ has begun to greatly interest me. I’ll roughly define the term for you guys:

Matchmaking

Noun

The act of finding the right match / partner / spouse for a relative, friend or acquaintance*, and including negotiations between families till culmination of the same into marriage.

*Acquaintance for this purpose includes friend of a friend, colleague, neighbor, neighbor’s dog, watchman, Life insurance agent, salesman / grocery storekeeper...

This noble profession is usually taken care of by bored middle-aged aunties, who have perfected the necessary skills over the ages, such as:

  • Sharp hearing sense – Their ears prick as soon as the word ‘marriage’ is uttered or whispered in households in a radius of 10 miles
  • Analytical sense – They will give the candidate a sneak, keen once-over as they pass by, and collect a bio which includes height, weight, skin tone, income, fitness levels, artistic talents, cultural views and even the ability to cook.
  • Marketing skills – They are born saleswomen when the product is an eligible bachelor / bachelorette.

The youth of recent times, however, seem to have more faith in Matrimonial Services, which are efficient and impersonal, and can cast a wider net in deeper seas. You can simply access their secure online database (which has pictures), and just filter through categories such as caste, language, religion, location, education, mansion, perception, inception, hypertension, suspension, acceleration…

A third party matchmaker like these matrimonial sites, forces you to apply your judgment in doing a rough character assessment, based on which your whole life will be shaped. You need to accurately assess if the potential match has all the qualities you look for in an ideal life partner (Yes, all candidates know EXACTLY the qualities that their ideal match should possess). And if you find a match, in matchmaking terms it is a success!

In case you’re thinking THIS is scary, just hold on.

As if online marriage databases are not enough, China has a “Marriage Market”. The Shanghai Marriage Market. It is a very real & tangible market, in which “parents of unmarried adults flock to People’s Park in Shanghai, China every Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 pm”.

If parents don’t do this, how else can their only child, their little baby, find a wife and have kids, so as to continue their family’s lineage, oh dear Lord!

Mail-order bride

A mail-order bride is a woman who lists herself in catalogs (online or otherwise) and is selected by a man for marriage.

“Women in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and other Eastern European countries are common white mail-order bride candidates.”

This concept is still present. Wikipedia is not kidding!

Well, where love is blind, arranged marriages pull your eyes wide shut.

Interesting, right? I’m fascinated. Already flicking through mental catalogues of deliciously well-built mail-order men in swimsuits!! Do I need to make my intentions clear before placing an order? And how do I pay, in cash or in kind? 😉