MonthAugust 2015

mesmerized.

I’m on a train right now. I was planning on reading, on maybe writing something, or coding something. But I don’t want to do any of those right now.

I am either sleeping, and when I am not sleeping I am just looking out the window with this one song on repeat. ‘tu kisi rail si‘ written by Varun Grover, sung by Swanand Kirkire.

There is one particular couplet that has me taken:

tu kisi rail si guzarti hai
main kisi pul sa tharthara hoon

you pass by like a speeding train,
and i shiver like the bridge below.

(Translation mine, though I’m probably butchering it.)

Wow, that’s some good shit right there. I don’t know. There’s something about using this metaphor in a romantic song. Turns out that this couplet wasn’t written by Varun Grover, he writes about the song in an article for the Indian Express. It was written by Dushyant Kumar, a Hindi writer born in the 30s. He wrote poems and ghazals, short stories, novels, and dramas.

There’s something about that metaphor that has me mesmerized.
So I listen to the song on repeat, doing nothing else on this train.

(Yes, I know that this a simile and not a metaphor. Please do not write to me about this.)

small talk.

I was amidst madness. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am all for madness. The madness that flings ideas far into the whirlwind and brings them back into delightfulness. The madness that sways me from side to side, where bodies move and dance to the tunes of Arabic music. I’m all for that madness. This madness was small talk at a party. Can’t really call this a party. I’ve been to parties and this ain’t no party. It’s a get together, really. I’m here as a favour to a friend. Small talk I cannot stand. Oh, the things we do for friendship.

Two men stand in front of me. Drinks in their hands. They’re talking about something or the other. All I can focus on is how the light reflects off of one glass on to the other and back; how slight motions of the glasses change the entire lighting in the room. The wonder of photons. That’s where my mind was. These men, in their ties and eight-piece suits, spoke about the dreadfulness of their jobs and about how they have to sprint to their cars in the parking lots when they get off the train coming home to suburbia. The reason you want to sprint to your car is so you can be of the first to head out of the lot. A casual stroll to your car could mean anywhere from half an hour to an hour of waiting in a car line. Oh, the dread.

I wondered where the conversation would go next. I wondered if these men had any dreams remaining in their souls. Perhaps over time the dreariness of their lives had slowly eroded the mechanisms in their minds and hearts that gave birth to dreams. Maybe they were just ashamed to share how impractical their dreams were. How they were chained to the routines of their lives. How they were now stuck upgrading sedans to minivans that would mostly sit rotting on their driveways. The rest of the time they would rot in the car line waiting to leave the lot.

I tried. I drifted my attention from the variations of the light rays in to the conversation at hand. I asked them what they wanted to do, you know, with their one wild and precious life. Mary Oliver would have been proud of me. But the question was lost on them. As if they were thrown into some foreign land the language of which they did not speak, scurrying to find their tickets home. One man finally spoke about trying to figure out some PowerPoint animations so he could impress his bosses at the next presentation. I drifted back to the photons. Did you know that if most photons had consciousness they would barely have time to even realize it? From the moment a photon emanates from its source it already reaches its destination. We’re talking fractions of a fraction of a second. This is the speed of light in action. Light from a flashlight barely gets to experience its own existence and yet is able to illuminate so much and guide us through forests. We only see where the light shines. Without these photons we are nothing. I’m glad I have human consciousness, though not in this moment. Not in front of these men talking about some whoop-ti-do and whoop-ti-dumb.

They’re talking about sports now. They argue with an invigorated sense of being. Back and forth they go, with the confidence of handsome politicians. Sadly, they’re both wrong and equally unconvincing. This must be some fucking ploy to edge my patience and make my mind numb. It was working. I’m sure this is the same conversation these men have each time they see each other. They’ve got it down pat. Their ability to repeat the same words over and over and yet exhibit facial expressions as if these thoughts were fresh was remarkable. I think they get off on it in some weird way. This is how they enjoy their lives. I, however, was ploying ploys of my own. I sunk into my heart’s desire and asked myself what it was that I really wanted to do. This would be an immense list of things, longer than all the ties in this house laid from end to end. But what did I really want to do in this moment?

So here’s the scene: With my right hand I would take the glass from the man to my left and splash the drink on the face of the man to my right. While they reeled from the shock of such an unimaginable incident, with my left hand I would take the glass from the man to my right and splash the contents on the face of the man to my left. Then I would give the glass that I’d taken from the man to my left to the man to my right, and vice versa. So that each man would not only end up with the contents of the glasses on their faces, but also the very glasses from which the contents came. Thus completing some circle of absurdity. By this point the others at the get together would have gathered around to watch the spectacle. I would then, with a supremely calm elegance never witnessed by anyone present here, say, “Gentlemen, this has been a rather life altering conversation, it really has. I would love to stay,” I would look at my watch in disappointment, “but I have an appointment to be at. Perhaps the next time you can get straight to pulling out my nails with a plier. Good day. Good day, everyone!” I would leave the house with a graceful gait that would mimic a model’s walk down the runway, making sure that everyone had the chance to experience my exit. The door would shut and drops of liquid would continue to fall from the faces of these men to the ground.

This is what I would rather do than stand through small talk. But I didn’t. Instead, I stood there swirling into the the blandness of the sentences spoken before me. I haven’t had a lick to drink, but I know I will wake up hungover tomorrow.

I didn’t follow the barest of my desires. Oh, the things we do for friendship.

compromise.

There are compromises and then there are compromises.

You hear it said all the time, “you have to compromise!” We’re told that compromise is important to maintain our relationships, at work, with family, friends, partners, lovers, and for marriages and so on and so on.

I don’t disagree, compromise sounds dandy. But not all compromises are created equal. Situation and context matter. They matter deeply. Not everyone who compromises in a relationship gets equal compromise in return. Some sacrifices are much larger.

But there are also types of compromises. Two I’d like to focus on are: compromising of the heart and compromising from the heart.

The difference between the two is a willingness and desire to compromise. When the compromise comes from the heart, it comes with a willingness – perhaps even an eagerness. It is a happy compromise. You give of yourself but you feel greater for having done so. In contrast when you compromise your heart (a compromise of the heart), you feel like you’ve lost something. You feel at loss; you feel incomplete. There is hesitation and unwillingness.

There are compromises and then there are compromises.

I don’t want to compromise my heart. I want to follow its beats.
From the heart, I would compromise a thousand times over and a thousand times under.

steps.

I dozed off. This is not unusual, but this time I dozed off on the train. That isn’t unusual either. But this time I was carrying too many valuable things in my bag. The thought of losing the bag, the thought of having it stolen scared me. Sure it would suck to lose the material things: the laptop, the tablet, the e-reader, the camera, and all those things. That would have sucked, for sure. But much worse is the contents, the insides of the materials. The photographs I’d taken, the things I’d written stored off on the laptop. Losing that material would have been devastating. I can’t afford to doze off in public.

It was just a split second, too (give or take another split second). I’m not even sure if anyone even noticed. Except that I dropped the book I was reading. Well, at that point it was just the book I was holding. I had my finger stuck in between the pages as a bookmark. I dozed off and the book fell through. Maybe if I had a tighter grip on the book it would have survived the moment? The lightest of touches fall through the fastest. One split moment you sense what you think is everything and the next moment it’s all gone. Oddly enough, it was the very fall of the book that woke me up. Gravity pulls through in split seconds, too. Or maybe it was the thought of losing the book? Maybe it was the slip that sparked my senses, and I awoke before the book hit the ground? I don’t know for sure. Everything happened so fast.

I finally got where I was going: the steps of the New York Public Library. The library was closed but it was the steps that I wanted. Nothing too exciting. I just wanted to finish reading this book. Not just the book, I wanted the sense of motion in my periphery and the cool breeze. I wanted the sounds of people talking. I wanted to watch the footsteps of lovers as they passed by. I wanted the ants to climb from the steps onto my shins and weave through the hairy jungle. Okay, I didn’t want this, but it would happen either way. What I did want was the unfailing presence of the pigeons who would always come by but never say hello.

Some lady came across the pillar from behind me, she was panting as if a couple of lions – a married pair – had been chasing her.

“Where is the entrance?” she said. The worried expression on her face changed every second, as if every second a piece of the sky had fallen.

“It’s right here,” I said, pointing to the three large doors behind us. She disappeared from my view, only to return after a few seconds. “It’s closed now,” I continued, standing up this time and following her as she pointed to the closed doors. In my previous times on the these steps I’d hear tourists complain about the lack of knobs on the doors.

“No, it can’t be closed. I have a class here at 6:30.”

It was 6:48 at this point. She was late to a class in a building that had already closed a while ago. The universe wasn’t being kind to her today. She scrolled through her phone to show me the time and I noticed ‘Mid-Manhattan Library.’

“This isn’t the building you’re looking for,” I told her and we walked down a few steps, “See the orange and red flags there?” I pointed across the street, “That’s the building you want.”

She thanked me with a look of relief and hurried down the steps. The sky was no longer falling and she navigated her way through the fallen pieces to the other side of the road. Late for certain, but some how she found the spot she wanted.

I went back to reading and people watching. On the street I could see tourists with too many selfie sticks. I could see tourists asking each other for directions. It’s sometimes hard to tell the tourists apart in this city. The lack of a selfie stick is a good start. The lack of a camera, even better. But even then. It’s hard to tell the tourists apart in this city sometimes. I wondered how much time the lady would have lost had she asked one of these tourists for directions instead. Whether she would have gotten where she wanted at all. I was the one she picked today, the universe wasn’t all that unkind.

I went back to what I’d come for.
I went back to reading.
I dozed off.

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