I ache for solitude. A few minutes of uninterrupted silence. I want it so badly that I can taste it under the roof of my mouth. I can smell it in the air that I breathe out. And I want to make a dash for it. Kneel before its fountain, and tongue its sweet nectar; wincing as I feel it on my skin.
Because solitude is not a rash. I cannot scratch it, and make the itching go away. It travels through my small intestines. Finds a home wherever the human soul is supposed to be hiding. It is my ticketless passenger. By now, it has hitched a ride so frequently that I am not sure who is giving directions anymore.
And it is not a disease I carry around. It is a beautiful scar. A pivotal part of my psyche. A bar graph that precariously body-surfs on the totem pole of my actualized needs. It comes in different shapes and sizes.
Sex and language can be inconsolable bed-mates. Best friends with benefits. They can go out for a coffee, talk unabashedly about life, and get drunk on each other. They can wake up in each other’s arms, with one pretending to have already freshened up. And the other playing along for the kisses and giggles.
But I used to feel odd whenever I have tried to write about sex. However uninhibited I may have thought I was, I found myself in a state of imbalance. And I ended up regurgitating bedtime fantasies. Like the rose petal scene from American Beauty. It is the most Indian-influenced piece of Hollywood. I expected Kevin Spacey’s leg to tip over a glass of milk, as nine months go whizzing by and then – a baby’s squeal is heard behind closed doors.
Perhaps, it is because of where I grew up. The land of the Kama Sutra and the home of the prude.
If it weren’t for birds, I wouldn’t have met any of you. This blog is almost two years old. Some of you have been visiting me since the beginning. It’s the second longest relationship I have ever been in. I don’t know how special this has been for you. But, it has meant a lot to me.
I may not know all your names. Not everyone stops long enough to leave behind a comment. But a WordPress widget lets me know that you exist. And I am thankful for it.
At times, birds fly away quickly too. Even before we consciously share something beautiful together.
I know that you aren’t sure why you feel depressed. You try and hide it because you can’t find its source. You fear judgment from others. The ones you know and those you cherish. They won’t understand what you are going through because you don’t either.
So you avoid thinking about it, but it doesn’t go away. Whenever it comes, you feel sick in your stomach. Your press your fingers against both sides of your scalp to assuage the dull quaking in-between. But there is no escape. No crack in the wall through which you can squeeze yourself out.
No hole in the ground you can fall through and disappear for a while.
Kodaikanal, a hill station in south India, is my happy place. That sweet spot halfway between the gutter and the stars. Her songbirds, smiling faces, street food and silhouettes of trees have filled me with warmth.
She births unsupervised fires in me. Whenever I climb up her turquoise thighs, she holds me in a vice-like grip. She cradles me until I submit to her providence and charm.
Kodaikanal found me when I was lost and without a hill to wander upon. I ended up pressing my nose against her grassy knolls, inhaling the soy-milk clouds drifting down her neckline. Now, we tear apart truths and turn them into poems.
Scaly-Breasted Munias, like many other finches, are prostituted into the pet trade business. I’m not surprised that people are illegally selling them. I know the kind of things that people are willing to do for money. We all do. It’s why the seller doesn’t bother me as much as the buyer does in this business.
I wonder how anyone can find love in a caged bird. Do they find perverse pleasure in clipping its wings? How can they romanticize slavery because it involves creatures that don’t speak our language of pain? Is it a manifestation of their messiah complexes?
I am at peace being a writer. I have been in the business for 12 years. In hindsight, I wish I had picked another profession, preferably in wildlife conservation or goat-farming. I can’t complain though. It’s akin to choosing a mode of commutation. I would rather fly from one place to another. But I can’t fret over having to walk briskly until I grow a pair of wings.
From start to now, writing outside the realm of my career has been a more satisfying experience. Any writer will tell you that. However, getting paid to generate content is a crucial part of the journey. It exposes inabilities and then builds confidence. The secret was also out years ago that successful brands are eager to hire the really good ones. Hence it’s important for aspiring writers to learn the art of powerful storytelling, without googling for synonyms.
An enema procedure for a kidney stone operation once taught me two valuable lessons. One is that I should drink more water on a daily basis. The other is that I should stop making New Year resolutions. After spending three days at the hospital, I was overcome with trepidation and boredom. Lying face down on a polished-white table, I was eyeing the tepid sloths that were the hands of a wall clock. And I was ruing the dietary habits and stress coping mechanisms that had put me in that situation.
It occurred to me then that it was a familiar feeling. It was how I used to feel while coming up with New Year resolutions.
The sun has been my city’s mischievous daytime lover for the past two days. We blew kisses to her the moment she filtered through our windows after a prolonged absence. We missed her so much. Yet she wants to play peekaboo with us. She doesn’t seem to stick around long enough for us to cuddle her.
The good news is that Chennai isn’t sinking anymore. People aren’t panicking as much. Irrespective of how or when Mother Nature unleashes her fury upon us again, we feel much safer now. While a few spells have kept the rumour mills abuzz, the city has started to recuperate. We are crawling towards the road to recovery.
The haunting isn’t over though. We can never forget Bharath – a volunteer who lost his life while trying to save others. Songs of guilt and bitterness crash around us, like rowdy cymbals. Many of our streets reek of soaking-wet garbage. We are asking awkward questions to each other, balancing superficiality with real sentiments.
Today, I am proud to be a resident of Chennai, not a citizen of India. In case you haven’t heard, my city was affected recently by the heaviest rainfall recorded in over 100 years. Floods wreaked havoc on the lives of 2 million people. Over 325 are dead. Many birds and animals, especially strays, too. Tragically, a few other districts in the state have had it even worse.
Last week, we were either trapped indoors without electricity or supplies, stuck in traffic – with no safe route to take us home or stranded in deep waters – battling for our lives. We were helpless and frightened. Even now there is palpable tension in the air. Some are in grave danger. The rains haven’t yet bid adieu; we can still hear ambulances and helicopters. Added to that, a lot of misinformation has us in a state of paranoia. It has been an heartbreaking and nightmarish experience. Recovery is going to be a long, arduous and disease-ridden process.
Apparently, none of these qualified as being critical as far as the rest of India was concerned.