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

Loop

My room is a mess. The mess used to feel like home earlier. Now everything feels a little alien, like I’ve taken over someone else’s body, someone else’s chaos. This is not my mess. I want someone else to claim it. Every morning I empty the pile on my chair on to my bed. Every night I put it back, but I add a bit more to it. A little bit more, just enough that it doesn’t spill over. When you forget something, you have to retrace your steps in an attempt to remember it. Even the most inconsequential things can jog your memory. Like the sock dangling over the full-length mirror, or the empty coffee cup that’s left dried stains on the desk. I’m in a loop, revisiting my life in an attempt to fill in the blanks. None of this is real. I have already lived, and now I’m just waiting, waiting for the end of the circle, the beginning.

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.

Smokescreen

Only one thought has weighed on me all day long. Do I want to be the writer or the story?

You tell me you are writing me, and I long to be written about. I am the story you were born to write. And since I cannot write my own story, I shall wait. I shall wait for the writer to meet the story.

Meanwhile, I went to a café today, sat outside on quaint wooden chairs, drank some smoke and inhaled some caffeine as the gentle evening breeze caressed my face and the mosquitos danced and welcomed the darkness. A storytelling workshop was going on inside, and a turbaned fellow in folk attire narrated his story, his voice rising to a crescendo and then falling to a whisper as the audience listened in rapt attention. Old people, I thought, observing the white heads lining the window.

A part of me, I will admit, was curious. I wanted to go in and see if the story could move me as deeply. And yet another part of me wanted to be invisible. I could not bear the thought of walking inside in the middle of a story, all eyes on the young newcomer. I could not bear the burden on engaging in social activity without the convenient façade of digital personas. And so I lit another cigarette, and another, and hid behind my laptop and my writing, letting the mosquitos suck my blood and wishing I was the smoke curling up into the fading light. A crescent moon was rising, and with it, my shame, and inside the lights grew brighter, illuminating wrinkled faces and the sound of humans in harmony.

Artificial lights

It was a brightly lit evening and we drove through town, chasing drunken taillights and liquor highs, caffeine stops and neon signs, Steven Wilson to keep the head buzzing and some Warren Zevon to mellow our moods and I asked you why this night seems to go on forever and you just smiled and put your hand in mine, and I forget what your exact words were but you told me what my heart already knew. We were following the dancing lights, or maybe the lights flickered in rhythm with our dance, mimicking our frolic, matching our frenzy, the city was alive just for us, writing poetry to our music, watching as our words mingled together, poetry and prose, music and lyrics, a glorious symphony playing out beneath artificial lights, witnessing a fusion of mangled souls mirrored perfectly unto each other.