We sat feet tucked under, beneath a dusty starless sky. I
braided your fingers and you played your beat on my ribs – or was it my knees?
1 2 3 4 5 6, 1 2 3 4 5 6. To the beat of six you said, and I couldn’t quite
hold it. Rhythms are hard, I said. But you were just swaying to it, you said,
feeling the wiggle of my toes in your belly through layers of jacket and
Why were you leaning in on me like that? It’s not very
platonic, I said later, feeling slightly displaced and awkward, shifting on my
axis ever so slightly. Away not closer. Gravity is a hard fact of life and
defying it takes volumes of reserve and experience.
Not at all, you uttered, genuinely shocked because your
youth allows you to be confused about such things. We’re just chilling. I have
a girlfriend. She’s a dentist, you know.
I know. I said. And I’m a writer. An underconfident plumber
of words. And once you are done chilling platonically, drumming on my knees,
your warm hand leading my cold fingers in the dark, and my innards have been patted
and thrummed into a ripened persimmon, you may take your leave to get your fucking
I’m so angry with you, duck. None of this would happen if
you’d just play along with physics.
Don’t you wish to just consume
some pieces of music – fuse them with your atoms and motives, so their
intricate compositions infect your being thoroughly?
I’m unable to
tether sound to memory. So that pretty sound you created yesterday? It
unravelled itself from your elaborate arrangement and drifted away the moment
you released it. All I was left with was a sense of you playing, the tenderness
you put into it and of course, the memory of finding it enchanting – this
intimate drama of you, your softly flitting fingers and the prettiness of the sound
– you created such a moment of magic. This will stay with me. Not the music.
To emerge from the safe shallow silence of ignorance into a world of
music is bewildering. It is alarming. It is frightening. It is, possibly, also
You have no idea how defenceless I am, do you?
With your fucking crotchets and quavers and your sixteenth fucking notes,
you wield your melodies and rhythms with impunity while I cower in cold spots,
my skin hanging off me in bags, collecting sweaty pools of incompetence.
I would relinquish a few words, about 250 grams of precious punctuation
plus an inch of grammar to be able to sing mellifluously to the beat of your
flawless rhythm, sweet merry music maker.
Music can make you write pretentious things without shame. It is that
classy and irreverent.
Darling bestie, kick some ass, soak some sun and don’t forget to paint your toes. Love you.
REPEAT AFTER ME: To X, Postbox: Asshole Stick your notes And text messages And sundry sweet nothings – Because that’s exactly what they are – In that precious little sunless place Where you store the rest of your shit.
Relationship hangover party trick
And a busy nose
Can a heartache cure.
Take a moment
Catch your breath
You won’t even notice, I swear.
One tiny push
A plinking plonk
Flush it, don’t stand and stare.
Hello, yellow moon
I’m so sad to watch you shrink
Pluck up the nerve
Convex your curve
Time to be whole again.
Yes Moon, my best friend’s watching you. Time to start waxin’ yo!
Ever since my diary – yes, yes I wrote diaries – ran out of pages tenteen years ago, I’ve taken to eructing little pools of vomit in unswept corners of my work files.
It's not uncommon that on occasion an unaccustomed client – actually not really, more the studio really, and not even them, my boss mostly – has discovered, in a word file detailing the content of a brochure on the range of tooling devices at an automotive glass company, an edifying piece on the goings on in my abundantly rich internal life, as A says.
With memory fuzzing embarrassment I remember – hazily – an impassioned never-to-be-read-piece addressed to an author by whom I was/am much infatuated, which my boss read out to me over the phone, followed by a scathingly torturous “this isn’t part of the script, I hope?”
Well anyway, here’s one such piece I discovered nestled among notes I’d drawn up for a senior client’s scrotum-fondling bio.
Looking back, I’m certain it was the wrinkle birthing brow furrowing distress of scripting a collection of half truths, quasi untruths and blatant fictions about his sterling leadership and visionary influence that provoked this. But I’ll be honest – I can’t be sure.
I’m generally an honest person. In fact not generally but very specifically honest.
But I can’t help making up all sorts of shit every now and then. I’ve become alarming prone to spinning untruths that are dangerously close to the truth, and then believing them, because really, there’s no other way of making sense of the million shades of grey that just refuse to be verbalised.
There. I did it again. Million shades of grey? Whoever fucking heard of them? Whoever fucking bothered to count up to a million? Well okay, maybe someone did. And if they did, I haven’t heard of it.
And there’s a lot I haven’t heard of.
So there’s a lot of shit I have to keep making up to compensate for what I don’t know, well not for a fact at least – hearsay and finely calibrated logic notwithstanding. And there’s a lot of THAT out there.
At which point I lost the plot and resumed work on the bio, because there's a lot of THAT out there.
Memories depart on deft toes. Softly, lightly, stealthily. Before you’re aware, there's a gentle hollow where a memory once nestled taking with it the faces that crowded it.
And they return, often, with the sharp illuminating crispness of a crack of lightning, and suddenly your life is a fuller place.
That’s how I met S yesterday.
One day she reappeared, real as a biscuit in an eff-b email. Remember me H? We went to college together.
And then, not two months later, yesterday, we sat across each other grinning.
I thought I was the only one who had grey and did nothing about it she said giggling.
N reached out her finger to count mine. Masi, you have ten. N is six and she’s a Delhi bred baby tyrannosaurus. Controlling her mother, telling me I should let the kitchen decide how much sugar goes into my fresh lime soda because that’s their job, not yours and how she’s going to get lots of rakhi gifts out of her little brother. She turned to S and said it’d better be a girl or a boy, not some mixed up girl-boy thing or we’ll throw it away. And masi, liiiightly she said removing my hand from where I’d placed it on S’s belly, don’t disturb the baby.
But soon we became friends because I put salt into my fresh lime soda and it bubbled over because I will never learn the exact amount no matter how old I get so I said to shift blame — oh no my glass has done susu and N squealed.
You’re her favourite now S said picking N’s fingers out of the sugar. She was worried that her gestational diabetes would affect the baby. She was tired of having no house for the last one year since they shifted back from Dhaka into her in-laws’ house and she was not looking forward to the baby coming early because she’d thought the March delivery would’ve fitted nicely with N’s spring break.
Amid all this, N discovered to her delight that mummy was older than H masi. So that means you’re going to have to listen to EEEEEEEEEEEEVERYTHING mummy says because she’s older, na? She grinned. Nooooo I said. Who EVER told you it’s about age? I’m taller so mummy has to listen to me. Nooo. Yessssss. Noooooo. Okay then tell me N, why do people say you can do things only when you grow UP, not when you grow OLD?
For the first time N was flummoxed. She looked at mummy, but useless mummy was giggling yet again. She turned back, perplexed.
Game change she decided. Masi, tell me a story. Okay, I said. Okay. But first the magic word. Pleeeeeeeassse she squealed, and with nostril flaring delight I was reading her a story. I love when children look up at you, hanging on every word and you can stop in the middle and say – but do you know what rustle means? And they’ll say no, and you’ll explain and they’ll listen with that same spellbound expression and you can pick up the story from anywhere and know they’re still listening closely with their mutant-Delhi-tyranny slipped away leaving an innocent kissable sweetness on their faces.
I could’ve hugged N and not let her go.
You’re good with them S said, smiling not giggling.
I laughed, embarrassed --- not if you leave them with me for 24 hours, I’ll be as cranky if not worse I said, a warm glow spreading inward.
Later S leaned over. I wish I was working too sometimes she said, patting her belly. I’m so glad to see you’re so independent. You’re really happy doing what you’re doing, aren’t you?
I looked down at little N’s hand in mine, and said yes, that’s true.
A little over a year ago, I spilt a bunch of angry words and dignified them with the title: ‘Angry poems about you’.
I’m all about playing with your mind, see?
And now, so you know I’m not all pissiness and mutterage, here’s something less virulent, more bewildering and just as unpoetic.
Written on a cold late December day, for Duck.
My heart’s still tender from the arm you lent me last night.
So, when you look back
Twice not once
Are you reassured I’m watching you as you go?
They tease and they please
Keep talking, I’m watching.
Those times when I’ve said that you’re vain
And pretended I can’t hear what you say
When I’ve taunted you till you’re close to tears
And acted like I don’t care that you’re here
I’m actually fighting this crazy-ass fear
Of being complete-farkin’-ly undone.
I were a poet
I’d say this eloquently enough
I think you’re the shit, duck.
Fuck me, I think I’m in love.
When we walked together in deer park I had a sense of something. Something akin to fate – the consequence of things that make up our destinies and the awareness of a brief interlude from which to contemplate it. Walking in the shade of low trees, dodging pissy geese, we talked about everything but the one thing that had led us here. Him, stooping to avoid walking into branches because he’s so tall and I, holding back the urge to walk briskly so he wouldn’t feel conscious of his limp. I felt the weight of things we left unsaid, aware that someday I would think back to now and wonder if it was all worth it.
I could tell he wanted to bring it up. Yet, with characteristic patience he waited, hoping, I suspect, that I would utter the first word. Had I offered even the slightest acknowledgment, I would've end up unleashing an embarrassing vomit of things I had learned through a great deal of heartburn to hold back in an epic display of restraint. I trusted him. Not myself. So we walked in silence, with an occasional pretence towards light banter, his eyes intense with things to say, and mine, uneasy, troubled and shifty.
In those walks is he forever frozen for me. His earnestness, his conviction, his steady patience and his frustration.
It was the one thing we shared. Our frustration. And in that state of simmering discontent we shuffled through deer park every evening for the few weeks he was over to edit his film, to forget briefly perhaps, to share a moment of feeling fortified in each other’s company and mostly, to escape the source of our woe.
It’s taken me four-and-a-half years to muster the nonchalance to browse the internet in google-search of his work and mine – for we were making our films together, weren’t we? We were in the same overburdened rudderless little dingy in the night, weren’t we? I found my film, credited to others, stripped of every trace of the hours I spent getting tetchy, grey and broken.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t expect otherwise. I just also didn’t expect that sharp twist in my gut.
And then I saw his. The awards, the reviews and above all the honest goodwill he’s brought into the lives of all the people who featured in it.
I remembered the call he made to me in anger shortly after those walks. Righteous anger. To vent about the deception, greed and blatant dishonesty that he and his film were caught in. He spoke without pause, pouring every abhorrent detail into the phone about injustice and vengeance. He needed to justify himself to someone. To me. He knew I’d understand.
But I didn’t. I had moved on, hadn’t I? I had given up and left it behind me. All of it. I wasn’t going to look back. I adored him, but sorry, I really couldn’t bring myself to care.
How could I explain that I would come completely undone if I did?
That was the last we spoke. He couldn’t understand my apathy. Or then perhaps he was disgusted by it. I will never know. For if and when we meet again, I’m certain he will be warm and genuinely pleased to see me, as always. Because that’s what he does best – understand and move on.
Here’s to the most committed filmmaker I know. The most honest and sincere documenter of people and their stories.
A man whose passion transforms effortlessly into the most breathtakingly lyrical frames I’ve had the fortune to behold.
RJ, I’m so deeply proud of you. You make me wish I was a better, more committed person.
The other day my heart ceased up but my brain was alive.
I was sick of being told how to breathe mid-sentence. So when we had a five minute discussion on whether menu should be followed by a comma or a semi colon because no pause just wasn’t working, I said a quiet fuck you under my breath and later that night bundled up my dying imagination and made away on an escaping thought while my heart lay deathly still and cold from missing a familiar thrum.
I always become Jewish when I’m on the run.
Like Anne Frank.
And so, heavy with a deep sense of loss from leaving behind a dysfunctional heart and a significant chunk of Europe in the 30ies among other things, my bundle and I fled past people and places, skirting at the edges of memories like thieves, to arrive at a familiar scene.
My aunt’s old house in a hostile neighbourhood where people hung their children’s bums off balcony walls and flung turds into enemy houses over messy water wars.
There I arrived at the door of a friend’s studio-plus-house dressed in a white blouse and green sari. I’d never wear white with that green. Never. So I already knew something was wrong.
As soon as the door opened, there he was. Duck. Sitting squat in a shocking shirt of clumsy pink flowers with deep brown shadows, while some people I didn’t like sat around and made small talk with him. He didn’t even look up to acknowledge me. Just sniggered with everyone as I passed them by to go to the balcony, because I had business there.
Turns out, after a long journey I wanted to take a dump and the best place for a pot, as we all know, is an open air balcony because then you can pretend to your house guests that you’re just going out for a smoke and no one will ever suspect that you need to lose a load, except of course vicious neighbours.
There I was, dodging intrusive neighbourly stares by artfully draping my sari around the pot so that it looked like I was squatting for pleasure and no other reason, when I noticed Shane Warne and a few of his buddies draw up in a car to move into the house next door.
A pressing sense of unease not entirely unconnected to my exposed bum wormed its way into my belly as I watched this scene unfold. Shane Warne and his band of boys were loud and unruly, their energy infecting the air so rapidly that soon the whole neighbourhood looked like it was going to explode into world war three in which atomised faecal matter vaporised us off the earth – ashes to ashes, shit to shit. Meanwhile the house guests were deciding on an orgy of some sort. But Duck, ever hesitant Duck. I could sense he wanted to say something on the lines of an apology as I struggled to clean my bottom discreetly, when someone gave me farkin’ CPR.