Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ctrl D

I don't understand when people say "move on". Move on to? To whom? Funny thing, this love. Funny, how it's always the same story. You never move on, unless to move on to the same expression, the same emotions, those same three words exchanged like a cliched quotation, but a different body. Funny. Frightening. I sit in the auto and next to me I hear a man speaking the same words that have been said to me. Four times over. Love as duplication.
We love like it's for ever. Every time. Is that moving on? It's never forever, because there you are with your watch in your hand and you're thinking, this is not it. I've been here before, and it's been better. Time to move on. I've done it myself, too often. And now, when I hear at one place that marriage is about retaliation and at another that love is mystique, I sit back and wonder at the smarminess of it all, while I'm sipping my coffee and writing this, thinking about you, and how, right now, you are saying to someone else those things you once said, and claimed to feel, for me. I don't blame you. I've done it myself.
So, while you repeat, unrepentant, excuse me for repenting and refusing to repeat.

And you, if I cannot tell you I love you, know that it is because I don't.

'I want you to come to me without a past. Those lines you've learned, forget them. Forget that you've been here before in other bedrooms in other places. Come to me new. Never say you love me until that day when you have proved it.' - Jeanette Winterson.

Don't tell me to move on. Don't tell me to get over it, because 'it' was a person I loved, 'it' was the way I changed my life just so I could fit snugly into yours.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Parents

They're such an intriguing subspecies. I've been coming home late since I was fifteen years old- often after 10, alone in a cab, and in my school uniform. They didn't bat an eyelid, quite positively spared the rod. I've spent most of college leaving the house at 11 or 12 in the day, and coming back never before 8 in the evening, or sometimes, not coming back at all. They took it all in. Barring of course the occasional phone call enquiring when (as opposed to if) the police needed to be informed. [As in, "Hullo, will you let us know when to call the police, or shall we just go ahead and do it past eleven?"]
So, now that I'm 24 years old, have more grey hair than my mother (who has none - gray hair, that is) and my father (who has none - hair, I mean); and am two weeks into my job, why is it that I am sent frantic and frequent SMSes every hour, on the hour, from 8 PM onwards? I mean, really, I reach office only at 1, it's only respectable to put in at least 8 hours.
Ever since I can remember, I've never been coaxed into eating. The routine is to quietly sidle all edibles away from my gluttonous eyes and obese mind, which, my mother believes are the two most defining characteristics of my otherwise charming disposition. Ok, so the "charming disposition" was my inclusion. But now I get text messages that go, >you last ate 3 hours and 46 minutes ago. Please eat a sandwich.< and then, >it's been 5 hours since your last meal. Time to grab a bite!< Yes, like an automaton. (I wanted to say 'like an rss feed' and go, 'get the pun? get the pun?', but then I'd be tech-illiterate and in all probability wrong.)
Thankfully, none of this newfound, oppressive attention comes from my mother, who remains ubercool and unconcerned, confident in the assumption that hers is the singular life worthy of debate and deliberation. But what is more surprising is this sudden, disquieting interest that my father has begun to take in my life. He was always the first to say,"I'm not worried, my daughter can take care of herself." And now, he needs to know if I'm carrying water, if I've eaten, if I'm coming home in fifteen minutes and thirty-five seconds or seventeen minutes and twenty-seven seconds like I'd come 2 days earlier.
And what is the point of scolding me for eating in my room and not at the table with you , when you're the one who set the precedent all those years ago, whereby the 3 of us always eat at separate times and separate rooms. What is this sudden hankering for conversation, when in the 24 years of my life, you have maybe interacted with me for a total of 500 hours, and this includes vacations?
Yea, so I'm a little pissed and it shows. Boo.
My point is, they've been awfully liberal all along.
My point is, is this an outcome of old age - this almost debilitating need to hold on, to establish connection through ruthlessly monitoring a life that has been allowed such complete freedom and independence all along? It's a frightening, mortifying thought. I've known my father as ... debonair ... devil-may-care. This new sign of weakness is ... well, it's new. And it's hard to come to terms with. Am I being unreasonable? Is the onus of repairing over two decades of complete disregard for any notion of 'family' really on me, because now I'm an "earning member"? Pah.
Of course, it could be a sudden realisation that he is, after all, a modhyobitto bangali. Hmm. I'm going to pretend the problem's solved.
Oh look, turns out it's past my bedtime now.

Fascinating, these parentpeoples.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

This happened several years ago, when I must've been around seven or eight. A relative had started a chinese restaurant 'neath her unnecessarily large house and we were all invited for the grand opening. It wasn't very grand, though - the sort of opening a patio-turned-chilli chicken fried rice place should have - tacky tuni bulbs hanging from a large tree in front of the house, decorator-hired white chairs with the plastic weave ripping off from the backrests, unreasonably overdressed women in their best kanjeevarams and the finest jewellery they own all the better to show whose husband earned the most for. And plenty of free food that was, and presumably remains to this day, unpalatable and unhygienic in equal measure.
I remember feeling tortured like I always did at these gala familial rendezvous, where gossip flew about in hushed whispers and rolled eyes - when a little boy in brown shorts came up the street, holding his father's hand. He stood, mesmerised, looking at the restaurant's cheap chinese lamps and the celebrations- it was as if he'd never seen something so marvellous before. They were the archetypal bangali middle-class. You meet so many of them during the Pujos, the fathers looking disinterested but happy (proud), the tiny boys with bright eyes, wearing silly paper hats and clutching onto a party whistle or a plastic toy, constantly being scolded or fussed over by their mothers who walked two paces behind the husbands.
As is the wont of all children, the boy was abrim with questions. "Ki hochhe ekhaane, baba? Eto shajano kyano?"
I remember the boy tugging at his father's hand and begging to be fed at the restaurant. He was very hungry, he said. The father gave in, after some coaxing, and they sat down. For an interminably long time nobody attended to them. The boy and his father sat on two rickety decorator-decrepit chairs in the middle of a footpath on a Kolkata residential alley, feeling underdressed and unwanted. They waited patiently without hollering for a waiter. Finally, the father got up and managed to get hold of a menu card. He pondered thoughtfully over it and furrowed his brow just a little bit while the little boy could hardly contain his excitement and wanted to know immediately what they were eating. While the boy rattled off "chicken chow mien" and "mixed fried rice", the father kept shaking his head but keeping quiet. Muted in his discomfort, while some gaudily made up eyes looked questioningly at him and turned away, disinterested. Eventually, a waiter went up to them, and I heard the man ordering a half-bowl of chicken soup, much to the son's dismay. When the child protested, the father simply said, "Na baba, eibarta otai khao." The boy's face fell, but he said nothing. When the soup arrived, he ate quietly, while his father watched and wiped the sweat off his son's forehead, refusing to share his meal. I took a look at the menu, it was the cheapest item on it. When the bill arrived, the man took out a note from his shirt pocket and didn't tip. They went on their way and I haven't seen them since. That's all.
I can't remember the last time I met my extended family, but I do remember, sixteen years ago, while I was stuffing my face with food I could have in plenty and didn't want, there was a young boy sitting across from me, understanding lack with dignity and silent endurance.