Sunday, September 27, 2009

All the Missing Heartbeats

Disclaimer: Turned out way more abstract than intended.

“I am missing heartbeats, Madame”, he said in his usual laconic style, much to the surprise of his unlikely companion. A look of un-dawning comprehension on her face made him to add to the all-conveying remark. (Though it hardly served any purpose, as she found out soon enough).

“Not that I am complaining of course. I have often skipped them in less careless moments and swallowed an odd one every now and then (in not so careless ones). But I am bit concerned now. My years are advanced (I don’t look the part, na?) and that gets me all worked up, you know. These greying, falling hairs and the failing memory. Before too long, I will be gone. All these heartbeats – I wonder where they are. I wish I could have at least saved them up in a jar or something like that. It would have been my museum of broken beats. Out of rhythm and isolated from one another. Still alive, but only just. A tin can of olive oil would have been just perfect. A gusty wind bellowing the sails of a ship on its cover. Don’t you think? An old man’s tool for retrospection when his grey cells begin to fail him. Ah, memory! How I thought it would never desert me. But I am talking words right now. You tell me. What’s bothering you these days?”

Akanksha had been quiet today. She feared that she understood less than what she didn’t. (But wasn’t that always the case?) So she swayed on her feet, shifting her petite frame from one side to another, and made weird noises every now and then, as if her intellectual capacity was somehow linked to her bowel movements. He had, however, been his brilliant self – unconcerned, absorbed, rude, intellectual, and arrogant – just the way she wanted him to be. He had grumbled while rolling his cigarette and had smiled when he finally got to smoke it.

“Didn’t you have a notice board for all those skipped heartbeats? A thumb-pin on it for each of them missed or skipped? I recall several colours and faces on that board. You never got around to giving me all the details though. I might not be too good with numbers or dates. But I remember conversations pretty well. And by the way, why would anything bother me? Someone has been putting ideas into that big head of yours. I am quite happy and content ji.”

The premature grey streaks in her hair belied her age. However, and he wondered often if that was true, not her wisdom. He did not fail to notice, either, how simple she looked. No makeup to botch the unmade eyelashes. No fancy colour ruining the dull shine of those softly pink lips. No mascara or kajal masquerading as a grace for eyes that did not need any. “She has been brought up well, this girl”, he thought. He smiled at the thought and coughed a bit before speaking.

“Yes, I do remember that. But although you remember my words, you confuse the context, darling. And I agree the difference is subtle. I appreciate your confusion. Those pins were for all the worthwhile things in my life. Days, dates, events, people, and kisses. Milestones in an adventure, slowly unfolding in front of open eyes. Yes, I had my fair share of all of them. Hey, I still have my eyesight intact……I can see you shaking that head in that very condescending fashion. Can you stop smirking? Please? The board is still there….do you see it in that corner of my room? Yes? Good. I want you to take it with you when you leave today. Ok?

I have lived a life in each one of them. What? Oh, what else? Those darned pins! If I were you, I would do well to make sure that I have scores of those pins on my board. For you can go on eking an existence for eternity. But when it has all come to pass, the crux, the gist of it, it’s there on that board. And if you don’t have enough of those pins dotting your life-scape, in varied colours, textures, shapes, and with so many different flags, you begin to realise it was just not worth it. That’s what I think. You tell me. What’s bothering you these days?”

He had mastered the art of being elliptical without sounding evasive. Akanksha had just gotten used to it by now. It came to her as second nature. It would have been terribly difficult to suffer him otherwise. Suffer, mind you, and not endure. So deftly ignoring any uncomfortable questions, again, she decided to ask some of her own – precisely why the reason why she was enduring his capricious mood.

“Tell me more, O wise one. What are these heartbeats you talk about then? Not the time you had that massive heart attack I am sure. (Dirty looks from him ensue). Not even that lady after which you made my folks name me. Oh, or can it be? Is it Akanksha? Mom?”

“Don’t be this foolish young lady”, he snapped. “It doesn’t befit you. And what is much more important, it does not befit me. To even think of it. Stop butting your head against a wall. It is not going to do you any good. You’re not going to wring out any scandals from me. Not now. Coming back to your stupid remark, I can’t have anyone stealing my heartbeats that easily. Not when I know I am not going to live to see my 40th year. But all this wisdom does indeed come in hindsight. Anyway, where was I? Yes, those heartbeats. As I said…well….or did I? Oh, whatever. These damn beats. I don’t even to talk about them. You tell me. Why are you bothering me anyway?”

“Huh? Didn’t you agree to have me here today? Don’t you go about making lame excuses. I deserve something better than that. And no matter how grouchy you act today, I am not leaving without your abstruse answers. Trust me on that one.”

“Fine. Have it your way then. Don’t tell me later I did not warn you. Well, I lost them all the while. They say I am dying now. I have been dying all this while. I missed them each time I was happier than I should have been. Each time I loved more than I was loved. I lost so many of them when I met Him. In dreams and for real. There were times when I was tested, and failed gloriously. Several gone down the drain each time my ship was raided by pirates or sunk by marauders. When I was alone when I should not have been or when I climbed too high on my pedestal of ideals. Times when I glowed in the warmth of success and smiled too much or hoped too much. And also times when I was flying in and out of clouds, insomnia, reality, and perception. But surprisingly, I lost them while I was enamoured by Knowledge, the single most captivating of all my love affairs. I still believe the docs got it all wrong there. It’s not possible, no? You’re shaking your head again…..

It was all involuntary, you must understand. Even when I gobbled them whole, it was more often than not in reflex. A heightened state of existence, working for and against me alternately. I would have been a bit more careful had I known they would run out too soon. Not that I am complaining of course. I don’t have any regrets….just look at my board. I just wish you could have been wiser for all that I have been through. Decide what’s important for you. Existing or living. Heartbeats or thumb-pins. Often, you will gain both. Sometimes, as I have come to realise, you can lose more than you win. But, but, but, looking at how things are going for you, I don’t think you need all that gyaan. Not from a doddering shaky senile old man anyway. You tell me. What’s bothering you these days?”

“You really get a kick out of all this, don’t you? Distorting reality and crafting a dream world to explain your inadequacies? Your thumb-pins were your heartbeats. They are all the same. Giving them different names won’t suffice to undermine the failures or advertise the successes. You should be giving proper due to why you got what you got.”

“I would have thrown any other person out of the room by now. But you’re my weakness. And I guess you already know that. Well, there comes a time when fact coalesces into fiction. You start living your dreams while reality fades into sub-conscious. However, until that time arrives, you need to distort, this reality as you call it, in order to stay sane and alive. Beats, pins, or whatever name you give them, you need to make a choice and stick to it. I made mine. You don’t find me complaining. I knew it all along. And they tell me I am dying now.”