Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Time for Truth

I won’t justify the affair. I can’t.

It was clear. Right from that harmless, first exchange of words, the fondness became perceptible. It’s different when you indulge in these pursuits at this age. The usual confusions of adolescence do not mess with your ability to decide. But on the flipside, and it is perhaps worse, you dwell under a strange arrogance, of believing that you’d get around the consequences. And perhaps that’s also why you may decide your recourses hastily.
When I went down that road I knew it wasn’t right. I even feared that it would be damning. But the connection with her was a thing unbearably compelling. And she didn’t belong with the kinds of women who’re frowned upon at friendly gatherings, at card games and at parties and at dinners, condemned for violating homes, outcastes among the virtuous for lurking around men who stray beyond a used up marriage. I reckon our coming together wasn’t anything of that sort because we had come to each other in good faith. I wasn’t looking to have fun. I wasn’t greatly interested in physical pleasures. What I rather treasured with her was how we could talk of things we had since long given up talking about and how perfectly and effortlessly we completed each other.

She wasn’t assertive or demanding. She never begrudged my not taking her phone calls or not replying to her messages, whenever I couldn’t. She never insisted on my time or my company. She happily underwent the unpredictability of both in the affair. Ofcourse, she voiced her lament for not getting more of me but that voice was unwaveringly dignified as it was reasonable. She knew where she stood and always would. She knew that I didn’t love you that I couldn’t love you because it was only her that I truly wanted. But she also knew that I won’t ever leave you. She had figured that I wasn’t made that way, to just walk out of an institution of consequences. She had understood that it was always going to be just a hotel suite, a restaurant, a long road trip, and uneasy public meetings. Her calm devotion despite all of this astounded me.

That was what made it even more profound. A fun thing is memorable but it’s just fun in the end. It can eventually become less and less memorable and ultimately reduce into a feeling-less excess. Things which lodge themselves in our depths; their power can’t be fought with nor can their influence be undone. My relationship with her never wore out. Truth is my feelings kept expanding till they became my universe and her universe. This is why hiding the affair has taken its toll on us, particularly on her. I could not let this truth remain a secret anymore. For her, or for you or for myself. You needed to know’

‘God. What do I do now?’ his wife sank on the chair. ‘I cannot believe you’re seeing someone. Please tell me it’s a joke ’
‘Look. I didn’t want to say all this but…’
‘What do you mean?’ she yelled. ‘You’ve given me the perfect anniversary gift. Thank you Jatin’ her voice mellowed.
‘Right. It is our anniversary. You deserved the gift of the truth’ Jatin solemnly concluded.
‘Oh God. The guests, they will be here any time now. How am I supposed to even speak one word now? Call everyone and ask them not to..’ she was almost about to break down.

The lights came back, all of them at once, like someone had turned them on under the control of a single switch. Since the moment she had returned after concluding some last minute purchase for the party, the house had been plunged into semi darkness, like there was no use of lights anymore. She had let it stay that away for she too was bedazzled by the din and illumination she had just rode herself out of, from the heart of the market. So the darkness had felt good, peaceful and soothing. Till Jatin had sought to tell her something important and had gone ahead with it.

The trains of the little bulbs blinked so fast and in such a lyrical rhythm that she couldn’t even get enough mind space to realize what an excellent job the light man had done in concealing them all this time. Then the guests popped out of everywhere, her and his friends. At the windows, the door, the corners, the dining space and infront of the TV. They yelled and made an incredible commotion, one of elation. They congratulated in chorus the couple who had completed six years. The surprise wore down. She came and threw herself at him and asked him if he had written down those lines and recited them for they had sounded so hauntingly real. Then she asked if it was his idea. ‘Well, it’s always nice to let your wife know how valuable the marriage is and ofcourse the fact that she is the only one’. 'Couldn't you find any other joke to crack?' she mumbled. Everyone had a hearty laugh about the joke. The ladies surrounded her and hugged her one by one. The party went on. So many wishes were showered for their lasting happiness. 

Later that night, long after the lights were once again turned off, Jatin revisited the lines he'd said to his wife, who was now deep in slumber. The woman he'd mentioned was no joke. He remembered the affair they'd had. Those lines were supposed to have been said many months ago when she had given him an ultimatum to choose. And now that he'd finally uttered them, he found it hard to not imagine the consequences had those been spoken in the circumstances they deserved to be spoken under. 


* 'A Time for Truth' is a work of fiction,

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Words From the Far East - Reading Murakami's Norwegian Wood

I was introduced to Murakami a little late in my life (about a year ago) by a friend I'd newly made then. When we met, one of the first things she was curious to know about me was the kind of books I’d read. Besides being a published author possessing a gifted grasp over the craft of expression, she was impressively well read. And she immediately got down to making recommendations, all the acclaimed ones, Pullitzer and Booker winners, Costa Books, and a few avante garde works. But to my surprise, shortly after making that list she got up and sauntered to the 'Fiction' corner of the store we were in and bought for me a book she had not mentioned in it, a paperback edition of (Haruki Murakami’sNorwegian Wood. 

The novel which elevated Murakami to literary pinnacle, revolves around the lives of Toru, Naoko and Midori. Toru’s young life is tangled on one hand by his intense relationship with Naoko who is living far away under institutional therapy and on the other, his irrefutable chemistry with Midori, a fellow drama classmate. Toru’s parallel feelings are sourced from different forces, the first being his deep yet seemingly unattainable love for the girl he always had been drawn to (Naoko) but who is herself battling depression and the after effects of her boyfriend Kazuki’s suicide ( who was Toru’s best friend as well). Actually, the event has a lasting effect on both of them. On the other hand, Toru finds it almost impossible to evade the influence of his physical proximity with someone as vivacious and assertive as Midori. Though the latter seems to be the connection more likely to see the light of the day, Toru constantly keeps running away to the other more unpredictable end where Naoko waits for him in permanent melancholy. The intricate progressions of their lives  will remind a reader with history, about the irony of human choices in those early years of chaos and vacillation. The atmosphere for the whole novel is set in the opening scene when the drifting notes of Beatles’ Norwegian Wood falls on Toru’s ear (who is then thirty seven years old) as his flight is about to land in Hamburg, Germany and prompts in him an agonizing recollection of memories from his days as a young student and his love affair with the beautiful but broken Naoko. He painfully recalls walking beside her for the last time in the snow layered forests surrounding the mental institution where she was undergoing intensive therapy. Prompted by an aching fear that they're doomed to part one day, she elicits 
from him a promise that he’ll never stop loving her regardless. When her fears come true, the resultant misery turns very hard to get over, especially because you desperately look to lay the blame on someone for the mess but you can barely decide who it should be. Not very late in the story, Naoko commits suicide in that frozen landscape, suspending Toru's existence in sort of a half life. He moves ahead but a part of him remains forever relegated to that phase in which he'd spent his days with Naoko. He is given a second chance at love with Midori, a chance which he can neither fully embrace nor ever feel capable to completely let go.

In NW Murakami skillfully takes us on a journey through some of life's deeply dark experiences including the testing realms of love and longing. His characters teach us the disenchanting truth that emotional reliance may not be love, almost preaching against the notion which deceives so many young and old alike. Murakami's characters are often found negotiating with divesting circumstances in the story. And he gives us a memorable insight into their minds and hearts with his engaging narration.   The depiction of longing and physical intimacy is accomplished with delicate restraint, moments about the latter are sometimes cleverly made to suffer from a lack of a staged order, which is expected to exist between characters in love and that quite works in favour of the adolescent tone of the novel. 

Apart from the central characters, my heart went out for Hatsumi, the long-suffering girlfriend of Nagasawa (Toru's flamboyant, womanizer buddy). It was unbearably saddening the way Murakami has sketched her life. The following excerpt may suffice to tell you about Hatsumi and the reason why she holds that kind of position in the book.

Toru remembers:

“Watching her, I could see why Nagasawa had chosen her as his special companion. There were any number of women more beautiful than Hatsumi, and Nagasawa could have made any of them his. But Hatsumi had some quality that could send a tremor through your heart. It was nothing forceful. The power she exerted was a subtle thing, but it called forth deep resonances...what Hatsumi had stirred in me was a part of my very self that had long lain dormant. And when the realization struck me, it aroused such sorrow I almost burst into tears. She had been an absolutely special woman. Someone should have done something—anything—to save her. But neither Nagasawa nor I could have managed that. As so many of those I knew had done, Hatsumi reached a certain stage in her life and decided—almost on the spur of the moment—to end it. Two years after Nagasawa left for Germany, she married, and two years after that she slashed her wrists with a razor blade”

What made the experience of knowing Hatsumi so deep for me was the fact that I knew someone like her in my college days. Someone, I now realize why I never loved yet felt deeply affectionate and protective for. 

Understandably, NW opened up for me the captivating art of Japanese writing and made me read and adore 'Kazuo Ishiguro's 'Never Let Me Go' and his Booker winning work 'The Remains of the Day'

I remember, as my friend had held out the copy of NW at me, she'd said ‘You’ll love this and you won't ever forget reading it.’ I don't know what she saw and felt all of a sudden to have changed her mind and let NW intervene in her own list of recommendations of the Pullitzer and Booker winners. I guess writers always manage to see through, and I think that evening she saw through and understood the story I might have been waiting to read all this time. 

I still keep the book by my bed. Memories of many of its haunting passages unpredictably compel me to return to them. Rarely is it so that a book does this kind of a thing to you. Its impact on me has been nothing short of intangibly devastating. One reason for it could be the resemblance which substantial portions of the story bear with how my own life has turned out and the men and women I have come to know over the years. Perhaps that likeness makes NW more than just fiction for me.  Don't be surprised if it becomes the same for you.



Wednesday, 12 October 2016

The Gift

Roma was equally adept in articulating coldness as much as she was skilled in swaying a man by her endless expressions of submission and love, all of which made for a rich repertoire of tricks necessary in her line of earning livelihood. 

‘I don’t want your fake admiration’ she sighed that afternoon.
‘You think I’m fake? My feelings are fake?’ Raghu stressed.

'I don’t know. If you really love me the way you say you do, you wouldn’t let me go empty handed’ she frowned and looked away, unresponsive to all his pleas. Often such moments soured their trysts.

To her, Raghu was the ultimate simpleton and she was certain of the unyielding longing in his eyes for her, one that she nudged at will to have her wishes obliged. He did it without grumble, without grudge, without regret. When the girls sat together in the weekends back at the commune, all they did was talk of who could elicit what from the men who came to them, drunk and ready to shower from their meagerness. On that front, no one ever came close to Roma. She always surpassed everyone else, even Mohini, despite the latter being the prettier. The identity of Roma's big hearted admirer remained a secret. He was her invaluable prize in this life of impermanence and vagrancy and she had no intention whatsoever of sharing him. She only liked to flash the gifts he gave her. A shade of lip colour, bangles, an expensive imitation watch from the collection of the Golbazar hawkers, and very rarely a saree or a Salwar Kameez from the Hat. ‘Oh how they wish they had someone like my Raghu, poor ones’ she would think while savouring their envy.

So that afternoon, she pretended to be tired of the many small, perishable and cheap gifts he brought for her, as usually happens when gifts come in too many, too easily. She sighed and turned dreamy and looked lost, a few of the many tricks which she employed to have him surprise her with an anklet. Its shine was riveting, its jingle mesmerizing. She hastily put it around her fragile ankle and hopped across his dingy room in ecstasy. Raghu had lain on the only bed there, watching her savour her reflection in the half broken mirror clinging to the plaster-less wall, absorbing her happiness, satisfied on having made the woman happy despite his struggles of being merely a daily wage worker. His shirt was fully unbuttoned, exposing his frayed vest, verging on losing  the sign of its brand name. Overjoyed, she offered to pleasure him in the probing ways he always insisted upon that too without any charge, her anklets still announcing their presence alongside hers. But no clothes were taken off that afternoon. He had no desire to substitute what he was feeling with any other delight not even with the contentment of sex.

The anklet had to be given away very shortly though. Raghu said he needed some pawn money and lovingly unfastened the pair from her feet as a reluctant Roma watched on. Raghu had not done anything like this before. He had never looked at his gifts. What he gave away he gave away. She spent nights imagining someone else wearing it, ruining its untainted loveliness to which she thought only she was entitled to. Sleep deceived her. The only fear that invaded her mind was what if Raghu could not repay the loan. The guy was never good with money. Gullible and naive, always only good with words of hopeless love. What if someone else were to become the anklet’s owner? Eventually she decided on getting it back herself. She dusted out every last penny of her savings and the next morning she went to the only moneylender in the area but he gave her a perplexed glance and said that no such transaction ever occurred at his shop. She then went to others in the business. But her anklet appeared to have never been given to any of them either. Tired, angry and disgusted she decided to visit her competitor. Roma hated her but she needed a place to vent her wrath. She hoped to shock her by paying her a visit, relish the stunned expression on her face of finding the one and the only Roma at her door. She hoped maybe something will go wrong and the two will unleash a verbal blizzard on each other and perhaps then she would feel at ease having yelped out her frustration. But Mohini welcomed Roma with an exceptionally happy disposition, unusual to their meetings. She served Roma lemon tea and by the time a surprised Roma finished it, Mohini leaped out from behind the tattered curtain, in a rapturous display of elation and breathlessness and beamed ‘What a big heart and what lovely things he has to say. Oh my sister. I have nothing to envy you for now’.  She slightly lifted her skirt and exposed her feet and twisted it right and then curved it to her left and added 'He has promised to bring many more'. The anklets Raghu had unfastened from Roma’s feet a week ago, stared at her, jingling softly on Mohini’s feet, shining prominently even under the faint tubelight like a sadistic smile.


* 'The Gift' is a work of fiction.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Goodbye My Love

Nothing lasts forever
You don't know it the day
When you say that
It'll last forever

Till you hear the words spoken for you
The adulation showered on you
And the tiny bits of care that once made your day
Now before the feet of someone else they lay

Till you see the way once your hearts were fond
And the courage you brought for each other
Given away to make another's way
And make his life what once your's was

It's when you realize
That the one you wanted to see the world with
Wants to find it by another pair of feet
That's when you know it's time

When the rage wears down
When the anxiety of envy flows past
When the peace of truth returns
That it was never meant to be

It's time to tell yourself
Nothing lasts forever
Not even the promise hidden in tears
Or the sacred vows that define love

It's time to tell yourself
That you're happy for her
That you wish nothing but the best for her
It's time for you to open your secret closet

Gather the packet where you've hidden her unpaired ear ring,
The small smiling picture of the both of you,
The white piece of silk perfumed with her kiss
The memories they've sheltered

And offer them to the will of waves,
Send them to the heart of sea where
They'll pass eternity in company of countless
Tokens abandoned by time

And when you offer those memories to the waves
That's when you gotta whisper 
The voice of your soul and say
'Farewell and Goodbye My Love'

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Verse of Longing

The early sun nudges me away from you
But where am I going to go?
Your resolute fingers clutch mine
Like a baby dreaming away

Waking before you and watching you
Feeling your breath
Remembering the old, loyal falcate moon
And the love in its light we gave each other

Now that you've rolled your eyes
And moved your lips, reaching for my name
My world's autumn
My heart's bliss

I clutch your fingers back
And still, I don’t say -

If only I could be
By your side
In your love
For all mornings to dawn"