Thursday, April 16, 2009

Alphabets and Underscores

Ritwick lay stark naked on his bed, the sweat persistently clinging to his body. The fan was idle. He hated the noise. It distracted him. Disillusioned by the silence, however, he stared at the ceiling and then his chest. In quick succession. The ceiling was devoid of any features except for the lone lizard that was chasing itself in never ending circles. Bored by the monotony of its uninspired regularity, he had found solace in the fact that the hair on his chest had somehow begun to trace an abstract Ganesha, and felt better because of it. It made him believe that he could be a better man. Better, yes, and special. Made him believe that he could resist the temptation to give in and the tedium that would entail.

A lone beam of sunlight suddenly managed to evade the fortification Ritwick had set up and lit up the dust motes in the room. Earlier, they had been dancing around in the room, happy in their conjoined obscurity. Now, they scurried about in mid air, ashamed at their sudden nakedness and the immediacy of its unfamiliarity. The abruptness of the intrusion upset Ritwick. It reminded him of the ease with which a lone thought had suddenly made him so restless and weak. So he got up to tame the rage of the sun by means of the thick curtains in the room. Having successfully done so, he even switched on his table lamp to prove this point to no one in general. He flopped down on the bed and closed his eyes. This time he did not try to sleep. It had started with him meeting her the last time for the last time….

Akanksha had looked singularly sensual wearing the nose ring. And the mole on her exposed shoulder had only served to arouse him even more. A few wanton curls got caught in the gentle breeze and streaked across the skies like black thunderbolts in a summer storm. She seemed mellowed and quite, hardly a shadow of the playful thing he wanted to remember her as. He remembered that her lips had quivered when she said “Hello”, as if weighed down by the enormity of that meaningless word. The word itself, having fallen off the edge of her lips, had left the slightest smudge of lipstick on her face. He had thought about wiping it away for her. But had decided otherwise. It was not yet time.

Meanwhile, Ritwick had shifted his frame one foot to another, trying to ascertain his stance on them. He wanted to be with her. But he was not sure of anything else. Or what that would mean. The only thing he was certain of was the alarming regularity with which his insufficiencies plagued his relationships with the few people he deigned to talk to. The morbid desire to turn his life into one long dream sequence. The vehemence with which he had begun to detest the conventionality of a routine existence. The apprehension and nervous was palpable. Yet both of them chose to ignore it. It had hardly been a month since they had confessed their feelings for each other through some awkward modes of communication. The novelty of the entire thing had fascinated them. More him than her. And in a time when everything else seemed to be going against plan, her un-proclaimed affection became the bubble that shielded him for life’s disappointments and claimed control over his consciousness. What he did not know was that it made him soft as well.

Ritwick had been unable to fathom her thoughts that day too. Even when everything necessary had already been said and done. Her feelings had always been the crossword puzzle that was just a bit too complex for his mental faculties. And her subtle signs, if any, were wasted on him. Just like her sarcasm. Both of them felt for each other in surprisingly different ways. And expressed it in even more contrasting ones. But what he could tell was that there was a nervous excitement that hung around them like an adoring cloud. It was evident in the way he found her face very simple and graceful. Graceful, not beautiful. It was evident in the way he found her stealing a glance at him when he was pretending to be lost in thought. It was evident in the way he loved her while trying to distance her from him at the same time. As if he wanted her that way but knew it could not be so. There was a certain common longing in the association. But he attributed it to the freshness of their romance and made himself believe it would lose its sheen with time. Exactly like the cynic in him would have him believe. Ritwick. He was like putty when it came to tragedies.

Looking back now, he could tell that she too was a romantic who had been so far trying to pass herself as a cynic. She was a lot like him. Akanksha. The signs had begun to show. He could tell that. But unfortunately, with the gradual telling of a lie, he had begun to believe in it too, while she was probably just getting there. So while he pondered over the temporary nature of their relationship and its pitfalls, she longed for him in a manner that had previously been alien to her. “What if their relationship consumed them? Left space for nothing else?” thought he. The temptation to give in and strike a compromise with life had become too overpowering to be ignored as a passing emotion. Failures, if any, would only precipitate the downfall of their ambitions. What with love being there to save the day. It was almost as if he had started fearing something being too good for his own good.

Akanksha and Ritwick. They were these two weirdoes who had come together in order to feed on each other’s excesses. They were proud, arrogant, and ambitious. But with a twist that was unique to both of them. Unfortunately, they were hopelessly in love. Ritwick was afraid that with time, both of them would pull each other down. Keep each other from becoming what they could be. He feared that it would be easy to get lost in the meanness of routine when love is all you have. And it becomes all that you desire. He knew, what with his indecision plagued mind, that it would be too easy to give up. And then repent over it when it all too late.

But this was only the good part. What he was really apprehensive of was the fact that, fearing such consequences, he would distance himself from everyone (and everything) important and begin to revel in his misery. Again. And that too at a time when she had just begun to teach him that it was not imperative that it be that way. The more he thought about it, the more he believed in it. Her memories would suffice. The scars would have surfaced anyway, had he lingered long enough. He knew he had it in him. The ability to poison anything beautiful and glorify the pain when it has shrivelled up and withered away. So he wanted to leave before the venom began to creep into their alliance. He felt selfish thinking so. Now when he knew she needed him more than anyone else. Now when he knew that a lot of alphabets that needed to be said had been replaced by underscores. Now when he knew that he had begun to find happiness in her and not himself. These were the first signs. Telling ones too.

But while he wallowed in self pity, he wished that perhaps it could be worked out. That they could learn from each other’s excesses instead of stumbling because of them. The hope made him weak. It was a sickening feeling. So, Ritwick opened his eyes and resumed his fascination with his Ganesha. However, when even the holy one failed to capture his interest, he tried to find whether he could cloud his senses with smoke. But none of this helped him take his mind away from what it had decided to dwell upon. So, he began writing her a letter. In his mind. Still stark naked. The sweat still persistently clinging to his body.

PS – The phrase Meanness of Routine is attributed to Krishna and the Horny Hippo. Thanks.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Post Cards

A Post Card came off my wall today. All on its own. It just fell off as if it had been waiting all along to retire from its service. I thought about putting it back, amongst its more illustrious siblings. Then thought otherwise and shelved it in the already cluttered drawer. Maybe it did not want to be there in the first place and had been waiting for an excuse all this time. To start afresh. To grace a more elegant wall.

Sign of things to come? Perhaps when we have to leave, we are indeed ready to leave.