the heart is a tyrannical monster

20 Mar

You left on the first day of the rains. It was a gloomy morning, one week into June, and it had only just begun to look like the rains hadn’t forgotten about us. I woke up feeling just as grey as the sky, but began to feel better as the morning turned into afternoon. I was going to be fine. When you called to say good bye I was still okay. Sleepy, but fine. And then we hung up. Amicably, casually, a little unsure but friendly—exactly as the last few months had been. And then the tears started and they just wouldn’t stop. I didn’t even realise they were there at first. It was stupid and embarrassing. I was in office for heaven’s sake. So I busied myself with work. They stopped for a bit, and then started again. I was a drippy, damp faucet and for the life of me I couldn’t find the leak. I knew what had caused it, but it didn’t make sense. Could it be that my heart had raced ahead and my brain was yet to catch up? It could be hormones, but then, it’s not a good idea to blame every irrational thought and reaction on them. So I blame my stupid, needy, lonely heart instead—she’s just as stupid, needy, and lonely as everyone else’s, which is why she gets carried away, sending orders to parts of my body that have no business listening to her. She ordered my lips to kiss that stupid mole on your left cheek, and your perfectly smooth forehead, your cheeks rough with stubble and, of course, your wonderful mouth; she ordered my fingers to weave through your stupid prematurely greying hair that grows from your dumb entrancing temples, to trace the curve of your idiotically symmetrical mouth and glide along the line of your ridiculously straight teeth; to rest my palms on your chest, where your heartbeat matched mine; my feet to stand on my toes to rub my big nose against your adorable, upturned one; and finally my eyes to cry when you left. All the while she ignored what my brain had to say – he’s leaving he’s leaving he’s leaving he’s leaving – because we always knew you were leaving. Not because I’m the kind of girl boys leave, but because, well, you were always leaving – even before I learned the smell of you, even before you smiled at me, so sweetly, even before I found out you weren’t quiet, you were just quiet around me, even before I met you, you were leaving. And my brain knew it, and my heart knew it, but I went for it anyway. Because even though the brain never forgets what heartbreak feels like, the heart—the stupid, monster of a human heart—has the capacity to forget and forget and forget until it’s been broken so many times it finds it hard to forgive even though it doesn’t remember what it’s mad about. It forgets and forgets and forgets some more, because it knows, it knows even if you don’t—one heartbreak leads to another leads to another to another to another, until you finally find the heart that’s been broken enough times and in just the right places to fit its jagged little pieces into yours. But the thing about the heart is, no matter how stupid it may seem (and act), it knows far more than the brain ever could. But how is that possible when the brain holds all knows all and remembers all? It’s the heart’s ability to forget, to be blind, to break, to reshape, and to cling on and let go that makes it infinitely smarter than we give it credit for. If the brain is your quintessential young business executive, the heart is the flighty dreamer—the one who has learned more than the brain can ever absorb, just by allowing itself to Be. But if the heart knows so much, why does it allow you to fall headfirst without a helmet, harness or second thought to how you’re going to feel when you hit the ground (not on your feet, but on your ass). It’s because the heart knows a secret only the heartbroken can see (and remember). That as painful as it might be, there’s something so beautiful about this state. If parting is such sweet sorrow, then heartbreak is perpetual, perfect pain—you’re rubbed raw and ready for just about anything that will ease the hurt, so you walk, you cry, you sing and dance and drink, maybe indulge in some irresponsible drugs or sex or sweet kisses that make you want to cry some more because they’re not nearly as sweet as the ones that left you feeling so bereft, but you’re out and you’re about and you’re experiencing everything – everything everything – like it’s the first time, even if it’s the second third fourth fifth or thousandth time and you’re really just going through the motions. But oh! aren’t you having a great time while you’re at it? And you go on like this, this open weeping wound of a person, until finally one day you wake up to find there’s a scab in its place. And it will itch and you’ll poke and scratch it and it will feel good and strange and weird and you won’t want to disturb it (even though you occasionally catch yourself picking at it), but then, again, you’ll wake up a few days or weeks or months later and the scab will be dry and loose and ready. You’ll peel it off, and there you’ll find your skin. It’s new and shiny, just a bit tender and whiter than the rest of you, but there it is. It’s a part of you you forgot you had. It was there all along, but it was healing, and here it is – shining and smiling and ready to experience the world again, but in less of a hurry, with less desperation, with more deliberation, less careless abandon, more careful joy. You forgot what it was like to feel happiness without that twinge of pain or guilt, but there—right there—you feel it again and it’s so freeing. Not like heartbreak, there’s nothing as freeing or as beautiful as a broken heart, but this is another kind of freedom. It’s freedom from heartbreak, freedom from carelessness, freedom from the pain you got used to wearing around you—first like a damp blanket, then like a shimmering shawl that attracted all kinds of insects to huddle around you and suck you dry, then like a pair of earrings that dangled and grazed you bare shoulders, winking and twinkling suggestively, attracting all kinds of dragons looking for treasure to add to their hoard. Now it’s gone and you put on your everyday clothes again. They may not fit so well, so you buy something new, but the blanket and shawl and earrings lie discarded in a corner, to be picked up again one day, when your heart—your stupid monster of a human heart—has forgotten and forgotten and forgotten some more, and has allowed itself to be broken again, and again and again and again, until, finally, it finds the heart that’s been broken enough times and in just the right places to fit its jagged little pieces into yours.


Prayer debt

30 Apr

It’s so weird how the only thing I want to write about is prayer when it’s the thing I give such little credit to. But all I can think about tonight is what I’ll call prayer debt, though I know that’s not the most correct term. Have you ever looked to your God — or Source, or whatever you call it — wanting to ask for one thing — a promotion, a lover, a car — and realised there’s something more important you need to pray for no matter how much you need that one other thing? That’s been happening to me a lot lately. I’ve been praying for something else, every time I look toward that Source — because we all, no matter what religion we claim for ourselves, pray to a different, a very personal source — that is more important. But the question is, how do we decide what’s more important. Supposing our prayers actually had the power to be answered, would we pray for what we wanted or what we needed to pray for? 

I pray

14 Jan

My hands are shaking and my neck is stiff. My head feels, at once, like a rubber band stretched almost to breaking point and as though it’s being squeezed from both sides. My head is heavy and I feel warm – not in a welcome way. It’s the kind of warmth – maybe heat would be a better word – you feel when you’re nervous. I am nervous. I whisper a prayer – no, two. I’m not one for praying but when there’s nothing you can do it’s good to feel like you can do… something. The words come back to me as easily as reciting the alphabet. No. They never left me. On the other side of the door I hear my grandfather cough; the suction machine; more coughing. A meek protest. The reassuring murmurs of the nurses; the doctor’s instructions. Sometimes when you know you can’t do anything it’s good to feel like you can. And so I do the only thing I’ve been taught to in a situation like this. I pray.


Note to self…

24 Dec

Your ego will get kicks to the groin when least expected.

Merry Christmas.

Swim while it’s still warm

23 Sep


Sometimes these days I go for a swim with a friend. It’s great. She’s great. She’s crazy motivated when it comes exercise and that kind of sort of motivates me to kick my lazy butt into action too. All in all, it’s win-win. I get thinner, I get a tan, I get to spend time with a best friend. It’s great really.

Except for one thing.

I’ve been dying to take a photo of the pool but I can’t. There’s a little sign board with all these rules, and one of them clearly states, “thou shall not instagram photos of the pool”. And while I’ve seen many people disregard it, there’s this stupid part of me that’s too scared to take out my phone and take a damn picture. And what a photo it’ll be! All blue and green and sparkly!
But I guess you’ll never see. Because this little piggy’s too scared to break the rules.

The house smells of fish fry…

30 Aug

The house smells of fish fry. Haldi, red chilli , surmai and oil — it’s a smell I associate with happy afternoons, eating it with maura daal chaval and a lot of lime juice, the tiny component that holds it all together.

Breaking the habit: Obsessive Compulsive Stress Disorder

28 Aug


The bottles on my dressing table are lined up like a city skyline. And I get to be the city planner. The bottles on my desk are lined up in a specific order. Not by height, or size or product or anything. They’re lined up the way I want them to be. No, the way I need them to be. Working from home I have the special advantage of controlling my environment. I get to say what goes where and I get to make sure it stays there. But every now and then, I have to venture out into the big, messy–so messy–world, where, for once, I don’t have to worry about what goes where or how or when or why. It’s messy out there, but in my head it’s calm. And then I get home, and everything’s wrong. Someone’s been in my room–fine, to clean, so I can’t even complain–and touched my things. Everything feels wrong. It IS wrong. The moisturiser isn’t supposed to be near the cleansing lotion, the deodorant goes at the back of the table, why would they put the Vaseline jar in the centre when it needs to be near the cotton and for God’s SAKE who puts hair serum on the back right corner of a table when it’s supposed to be on the left?! Then I take a deep breath and put everything in its place. Things feel all right again.

I’ve suffered (or at least been aware of suffering) from a mild form of OCD since I was fifteen years old. It started around the time of my board exams, slowly at first, until it got bad enough for my otherwise space-cadet older brother to notice. For some reason (apart from my dressing table, the books on my desk, the AC remote, and the way things are laid out on my computer table) it’s only something that bothers me late at night, just before bed, Checking locks, getting out of bed three, four, five times to make sure the bathroom fan’s off, aligning my clock so that it’s exactly parallel to my bed, making sure keys are turned in the right direction, their key chains perfectly still, perfectly aligned, the AC vents at the perfect angle, chairs pushed all the way in, pushing my bed back and forth and back and forth and back and forth until it’s aligned to the correct three tiles, and then placing my slippers in the exact centre of the middle tile that exactly marks the halfway point of my bed, doing things in threes, always threes always threes always threes… it can be exhausting… it takes forever. And for years it’s been the reason I put off going to bed for as long as I can. On a regular day, it’s all right. By which I mean, I can do all that quickly and without fuss. Still the moving, the aligning, the threes the threes the threes, I still have to do all that, but it’s not…. difficult. It’s as easy as putting a comb through my hair (counting the strokes so that they come up to a multiple of three). But on a bad or stressful day it’s…. well, it’s not. 

The last few days have been kind of stressful for me. I’ve had a lot of big decisions to make, and let’s just say I’ve been getting to bed later and later. But today, when I got home earlier this afternoon from a trip to the messy calm Outside World, and found my dressing table all mixed up, I decided things have GOT to change. So today (apart from a few small changes for convenience sake (really!)) I haven’t touched a thing. My dressing table skyline has changed drastically, but I’m looking at it as a new form of feng shui. Or therapy. Or whatever the hell you want to call it. I’m trying not to care that the cotton is a whole bottle of hair spray away from the Vaseline jar, and that the hair serum’s a little too right-aligned for my taste. And the deodorant! Don’t even get me started on that! Look at me! Not caring! As long as I keep walking past the table with my eyes closed it can’t hurt me! Not caring at all. 

I’m breaking out of a cycle that I’ve been stuck in for over ten years, and this rearrangement (or lack thereof) is my first step. Who knows? Maybe by next month I’ll be sleeping earlier. Maybe I’ll knock one thing off my long list of things-to-do-check-align-turnonturnoff-count-move-lockunlock before bed every night! And maybe, just maybe, in another ten years, I’ll be able to sleep without worrying if my crooked slippers will give me bad dreams.

Wish me luck wish me luck wish me luck!


P.S. Check out this insanely great poem called OCD by Neil Hilborn here. 

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