The Unknown Song

I have learnt a lot of things during my stay in a new city. Away from my family, counting a bit on the few friends I have and relying a lot on myself, I’d say I’ve learnt to live.

When I first came to this city, it was brand new to me; the people were strangers and the dialect was alien to me. While learning to understand them and get to know the many facets and the nooks and corners of this city, I learnt how to stay.

When I moved from a hostel to a flat, lived with 3 people instead of 300, balanced work with life, managed my savings, controlled my expenditures and learnt how to value my peace over everything else, I learnt how to live.

So today, as I book a cab to my office and the driver asks in the local dialect, I smile. I smile because I understand. I smile because even though I understand, I cannot speak. I smile knowing there is something more to learn.

As I sit in the cab, the driver turns the radio on. It’s one of those manic mornings when people whine about going to work.

The tune of a local song wafts out of the speakers. I don’t mind, because I don’t want to comprehend the meaning. I just want to imbibe the city in just like it has made me a part of it.

I tap my feet in tandem with the tunes and smile as I look out of the cab window. I don’t crave for familiarity anymore because it’s upto us where we decide to find it in. This time, I find familiarity in the unknown song.

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Some things never change

So I heard

you went to a shop

with one particular thing

that you had in your mind.

So I heard

you saw the thing;

you found it –

the one you wanted to buy.

So I heard

you bought the thing,

assuming it would function

the way you hoped it would;

assuming it would work

the way you hoped it should;

assuming it was exactly perfect –

doing exactly what you thought it could.

So I heard

it turned out to be different;

different in the way

that when you assumed it to go north,

it went south;

so different from your assumptions

that the thought of buying it

suddenly seemed uncouth.

So I heard

your questions about it.

You had asked whose fault it was;

was the thing at fault

for not being was what you assumed it to be,

or were you to be blamed,

for it was you –

assuming things on the basis of what you see.

So I heard

the thing was to be blamed

for being what it is,

for not standing up to your expectations,

for being like itself;

perfect yet somewhat amiss.

So I heard

it still lies in a corner of your house;

waiting for the validation

that never comes from your mouth,

while you are your stubborn self,

telling yourself

that some things never change.

How true indeed –

Some “things” never change.

// for the things that need change and for the things that do not need to change //

A letter from your true friend

Hello, darling!

It’s been long since you dropped by to pay me a visit. So, I thought of checking up on you, seeing if everything is fine at your end.

We used to be such good friends – hanging out all the time, you asking me for advice on all kinds of stuff and I, being the all-knowing-person that I am, helping you wade through your life crisises. So, naturally, I was scared when you hadn’t visited me even once in the last 48 hours.

You aren’t avoiding me, are you? I couldn’t have possibly done anything wrong. I’ve only done you favours over the entire span of our friendship. I’ve always been there for you, haven’t I?

Remember when you had asked me about your splitting headache? I had told you that you might have had a migraine or you might have cancer.

Remember when you asked me about your missed period and I had told you that you might be pregnant and like a good friend, I had suggested tips how to take care of yourself?

Remember when you had asked me about a medicine and I had told you all about its side-effects?

Remember when you had failed in that important exam and I had told you how many had scored a 100 percentile?

Hey, and did you forget about the friends you have made through me? Let me remind you that you had zero friends when you met me. The friend circle you have today is because of me.

And what about the jobs you could find because of me? Pretty sure you didn’t forget that, did you?

We have found gifts for your family, your boyfriend and your roommates together. I have even summarised most of the topics for you on the days before your exams so that you didn’t have to delve into entire chapters from the books. I have even taught you some recipes so that your mom doesn’t badger you about your almost-nil culinary skills.

And darling, did you forget that you need validation for whatever you post? Who helps you get that? Me.

So come on, you and I both know that I am as important as oxygen for you. You need me, babe. But I don’t need you. You know it well.

Hope you come over to pay me a visit soon.

xoxo.

Your true friend,
Internet.

A Perfect Start

Dec 30th, 2017.

10:30 pm.

“Let’s leave it for today. I honestly can’t discuss anymore.”

“I can’t either. Also, it isn’t always about your problems. There are problems at my end too.”

“You should have told me about them? How else am I supposed to know?”

“Can I call?”

“No. I can’t talk. I don’t feel like talking. I’d rather text.”

“Fine. We’ll talk tomorrow.”

This was one of those difficult nights when we had a fight. I knew that neither of us could get some sleep until late into the night.

But on nights like this, we usually preferred tossing and turning on our beds and assuming that the other is asleep rather than talk the entire thing out.

Dec 31st, 2017.

12pm.

“Good morning.”

“Good morning.”

“At office?”

“Yes.”

“Let me know when you can be available for a call. I can’t text it all.”

“Fine.”

5pm.

I call him up.

“Hello?”

“Yes.”

“So you were saying…”

“Yes. It’s not just you who has issues. I have my problems too. We can’t be available everyday for each other. People have bigger problems than yours. There will be days when you have to face some things yourself. I’m sorry. I wasn’t very welcoming the other day.”

“I’m sorry too. I didn’t know about your problems. You hardly ever tell!”

“Sure.”

“Okay.”

“So… you have to go back to work?”

“Yes. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Jan 1st, 2018.

12am.

“Hey. Happy New Year.”

“It’s just 11.58 here.”

“YOU ARE CHEATING AGAIN.”

“Haha. Okay fine.”

“SAY IT BACK.”

“Wait for 1minute and 30seconds more.”

1min 30sec later…

“Happy New Year, babe!”

“Thaaaank you. But I wished you first.”

“That’s a tough call. I need to tell you something.”

“What?”

“I love you. See, we’ll always have fights. Every relationship has. But what matters is that we’ll always sort the issues out. Our love won’t decrease ever.”

“Haha. Hey, it’s been four years since we are together. But I want to ask you something.”

“Ask.”

“Are you up for a lifetime of those fights and a lifetime of sorting those issues together?”

“Haven’t those four years taught you enough?”

“I LOVE YOU.”

And with that, the two of us had a perfect start of a new year. That night, the two of us didn’t have to assume if the other was asleep; we were just too sure that we would both sleep peacefully.

Dreaming of sleep

When you’ve had one hell of a day and you’ve got to go to sleep soon because you’ve another such day lined up, and sleep seems like a distant dream, read a book.

Let the words seep into your mind like water droplets seep into tissue paper. Absorb them, keep them and feel them.

When it’s 12am and technically it’s another day, and you still can’t sleep, write something.

Write about your day. Write your plans, write your past down, write down some poetry. Write it all out. Let the paper be your listener and the ink be the words you mouth.

When it’s 2am and you are still tossing and turning in your bed and adjusting the sheets over and over again, reach out to the water bottle beside your bed.

Gulp your thoughts down. Let your worries go from your mind to deep down into your stomach. They sure can wait until you wake up to a new day.

When it’s 4am and you still can’t sleep, walk out of your room. Go to the terrace and feel the morning air on your face. Listen to the birds waking up.

Stay there and see the sun rise. Watch the clouds shift aside to make room for the sun. Stretch and know that despite what happens, the day with always have a beautiful start with a sunrise and a beautiful end with a sunset.

Relax and walk back to your room. Only this time, think about the sunrise. Sleep won’t seem like a faraway dream this time.

Naming the constellations

It’s one of those nights when I look at the sky and name the constellations.

The winds are just as chilly as they should be on a winter night and the sky is just as clear as it should be after the clouds have been swept away. I rub my palms together and blow a puff of warm air into them in the hope of keeping myself warm.

I look up. There are thousands of diamonds studded in the sky. I start naming groups of them.

I name the first group with the name of my mother. Her tears were just as shiny as the stars. I name the second group after my father; his hair was just as white as the stars.

I name the third after my brother because I was reminded of his pearly whites. I named the fourth after my lover. The stars reminded me of her beautiful, bright eyes.

I name the rest in groups after the names I had thought of for my children and by them, I’m struggling to keep my eyes open after every single blink.

Stars make me sleep. They always have. And on the nights when there are none of them, I just can’t sleep. It feels like my family isn’t around; a part of me isn’t around.

But little does anyone ever know whether I sleep or I am wide awake.

You tell me, who cares if the dead man in the coffin under the ground is asleep or awake? Who cares if he is naming his own constellations or sleeping underneath the same?

Happy Diwali

Today is one of those days when I have to take my four-year-old with me to work. There is no one at home to look after him. My mother-in-law has left for the village and my husband is in the brick factory.

I feed my child and I dress him up in the best possible clothes I can find for him. Then we walk out of the house together, with him holding onto my finger and me carrying a tiny tiffin with some food for him.

I am a house maid. I go to houses to do the dishes, to scrub the floor, to wash the clothes. And honestly, I don’t like my child going there with me.

You see, I can see the white, marble floors and the wooden cupboards and the AC and the television set and not lament on our poorer state of living. But my son walks into every room with me. He looks at everything in awe with his mouth gaping open.

Then he asks me, “Ma, let’s get one of those, shall we?”

To that, I always say, “Soon, son.”

Today, I am halfway through scrubbing the floors. Madam wants me to clean it thoroughly because it is Diwali. I look around and see my son peeping into one of the rooms. The room is decked up with fairy lights and it looks enchanting. He just stands there and watches the lights the entire time I do my work.

While we return, it is 7.30pm. I wait for him to ask me, “Ma, let’s get one of those, shall we?”

But no question comes.

The moment we turn into the lane our house is in, I see the reason. Our lane is decked up with fairy lights; different colours of fairy lights and it seems as if the stars have fallen down from the sky and on our lane. The reason behind those decorations? Diwali.

My son runs towards them and starts jumping to reach the lights, to touch them. He seems so happy that I can’t stop smiling.

He doesn’t want one of those lights that he sees from the houses I work at. I don’t have to promise him that we’ll get it soon. As it turns out, he already got what he wanted.

I get a diya from inside my house and light it in front of my house. And as I look at my son smiling and playing with the lights, I murmur to myself, “Happy Diwali.”