Love’s Follies Part 4

He didn’t understand why she didn’t love him. He’d tried everything the book had told him to.

Step 1: Neg the girl

“You know, you’d look half-decent if you lost 5 kilos. And maybe, get a rhinoplasty.”

Step 2: Establish dominance

“You know, you need a man who can shut you up and tell you what to do. Lucky for you, I am that man.”

Step 3: Isolate her

“No one likes you anyway. No one likes a woman who thinks she is better than them.”

That’s when things went a bit awry.

“Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean I want to be with you.”

And that’s when he started shadowing every move she made…”I am sure it’s just a matter of time before she falls in love with me.”


Looking ahead by looking back

My friends tell me I am always in a mad rush to change things, people, the world – both things I can influence and things I can’t. I know that. It manifests itself in the impatience (that has also quadrupled during my 8 years in McKinsey) with which I regard situations, in the passion with which I throw myself into things I love, in this jumbled mish-mash of my hyper-focused short attention span combined with an-almost contrarian risk aversion.

And that is unfortunate. Because in this tumult of running around just to keep with what I want to do, there have been casualties.

I found this over the weekend, when I sat down to read my blog archives. In my first post ever (incidentally, in 2004 on a blogger address called Mumble Jumble, because why not?),  I tapped in not-very-vast reservoirs of anger to rant about slow internet speeds, spam and limited-size email inboxes.

And over the course of the next three hours, I read the book of my life (ages 19 to 30-something) as jotted down by a capricious teenager who was faced with the enormity of growing up and becoming her own person.

I still like her – that 19 year old Shruti. She seems manic – running from one thought to another with nary a breathing space. She is naive and the knowledge of the rest of her life hasn’t fully hit her yet. The troubles, thus far, in her life haven’t made her jaded or cynical, though she really wants to be. And she is fun, so fun.

Her writing has the same quality. It is breathless, moving from one topic to another at the speed of light (the way I still think, incidentally) and utilises way too many exclamation marks and unbound ellipses (Like this!!!!…..). It is imaginative – running the gamut from useless advice columns and fake book covers to the creation of a whole new character, Shruti Fraud. It is intimate – she made inside jokes to her regular readers with a wink and nudge; in fact, learning that she had regular readers inspired another breathless I-can’t-believe-it post. And most of all, it is personal – that young version of me treated her blog like a diary, ripping band-aids in public, whilst keeping the story private.

And like Google coming and solving that terrible limited-inbox problem, I have grown up into someone the 19-year old would not fully recognise. Yes, some of the quirks still remain, including the perpetual clumsiness and the manic-ness that has morphed into a self-aware undercurrent of impatience.

She would approve of what the 31 year old has done – she’s gone to a good school, got a great job that lets her travel the world, found her place in the world FINALLY (India is not kind to women who don’t conform to the norm of expectations), broken/mended her heart a few times (“Not to anyone inappropriate, surely”, she’d muse) and become more comfortable asserting her authority.

And, everyday I try and over-plan my future and try to reconcile my life and my ambitions, I forget how far I have come. And that, to be entirely fair to the 19 or even 25-year old me, is inexcusable. Because to look forward is also to look back sometimes and pat yourself on the back. It’s been a long journey but I really do think it’s been worth it.

While approving of the general direction, the 19-year old would wonder, “But what about your hobbies? What about writing? Singing and twirling in the house with abandon? Doodling in all corners of your books? What happened to all the manic energy you put into creative pursuits? Why have you stopped? And, and, and… what about your friends?”

And for that, I need to start making amends. Consider this step 1.

The Divine Wind

She strips the linen off the shikifuton, moving on to the pillowcase. Wet. It is all she can do to run out of the room and give voice to her silent agony.
Instead, she folds the futon, takes the linen and puts it to wash. And then, she walks out steadily into the spring sun to see Takashi.
He stands in the courtyard with the fallen cherry blossoms, a small smile on his face.
“Aiko, I was waiting for you!”
“My apologies. I was caught up in my chores. What can I do for you, Takashi-San?”
“Could you please send this postcard out when you can?” He hands her a postcard with some money.
Her mouth blurts the words out, “But I have no change.”
He waves her off with the familiar twinkle, “That’s okay. You can keep the money. I am bribing you not to forget.”
“I won’t”, she smiles hesitantly at this old young man and moves closer, to hold his hands. And they stand motionless in the sunlight.
The other girls come clattering out, holding flowers. Aiko and Takashi move apart and he bows to her.
“Thank you, Aiko.” He says formally, “till we meet again”
“Till we meet again, my firefly.” She lapses into the familiar rhythm.
And he walks away from her into the rest of his life.
The plane takes off and dips its wings in salute – once, twice, three times. Aiko’s friends wave their boughs of flowers at the rapidly disappearing speck.
And then she reads the postcard addressed to his parents. A single sentence like a solitary ship adrift in the vast sea of unspoken words.

I meet death on my terms.

And she walks back into the dormitories –  back to his tear soaked pillowcase.


The Vaudeville Life

A custard pie in the face

A monologue in the smokey haze

A jazz-fueled stupor

An almost religious fervour

A puppet held by its strings

Who knows what tomorrow brings

Because it is a vaudeville life.

A custard pie in the face

There is nothing as truly terrifying to a small child as a clown in its grinning rictus. No amount of water sloshing in comically oversized pants, custard pies bandied about in humorous jest or spouting fake flowers could ever endear Bozo to his main clientele – the 10th birthday crowd.

A monologue in the smokey haze

The stand-up comedian wiped his damp hands on his trousers and squinted out into the audience. The bright lights started to unnerve him.

“Folks, you know what happened to me on the way here?”

“No, but I am sure you are going to tell us right now,” yelled a heckler from the back of the room. There’s always a wise guy who comes to see a funny guy.

Hecklers always made his life easier. The world, after all, operates on a simple maxim – it likes to see wise guys taken down a few pegs. And he was the man to do it.

He wasn’t nervous anymore.

A jazz-fueled stupor

The 50 piece orchaestra reached the crescendo of the final movement in the symphony. It was all the boy could do to breathe.

And then silence. A clarinet blew the last note.

There was one single suspended moment of utter perfection.

The boy has now grown up into a jazz musician who plays the saxophone in a modish bar in the upscale part of town. He endlessly strives for the perfect last note. The day he does, he has decided, he will take up the clarinet.

An almost religious fervor

The Glorious Mr. Fotheringue (pronounced Foh-thuh-ranj, in a pseudo-Gallic fashion) had a manic look in his eyes that completely unnerved his manager.

Mais oui, zat ees right. I want my next performance at huh Eiffel tohver. I am sure you can provide for some danseeng Bengal tigers. Zuh tigers are always a bon idee. And I weel make zuh tohver disappear.” 

The manager was nonplussed, “But that has already been done.”

“Mon dieu, zat Daveed Copperfield fellow again, iz eet? Has he left any famous building for zuh Glorious Fotheringue to make poof yet?”

The Glorious Mr. F, in his next billing, was mauled by Timmy, the dancing Bengal Tiger he had brought in as a prelude to his grand finale – making Heathrow Terminal Five vanish in a poof of indignant smoke.

There is a moral in this story – don’t try your funny tricks on Heathrow Terminal 5 – it plays the game better than you do.

A puppet held by its strings

The puppeteer always felt like an Omnipotent God, when he sat up in the rafters controlling his little puppets on the stage.

“What is Free Will when stripped to its bones?”, he thought while making his little prince dance through the Enchanted Forest. “That poor doll there dances to my tune, speaks through someone else who reads the words I wrote and has his entire story mapped out. Where is Free Will in that?”

His hands stilled. “Where is my Free Will?,” he looked upward and dropped the strings.

The wooden controls fell on the stage with a clatter and the story was over.

The puppeteer had become that dangerous thing – an Indifferent God.

Love’s Follies Part 3

She always fell in love with exactly the wrong kind of guy. The one that didn’t care, the one that criticised everything she did, the one who was a jerk and the one who was perpetually underemployed.

This one thought that girls were a waste of time.

She thought that she could change him, because which girl didn’t like a challenge ?

The next kind of wrong guy for her was the player.

Love’s follies Part II

“… and a dash of chivalry”, she peered out from the top of her book at the person lying on the table.

“Am I missing something here?”, she mused. “I have gone through dark hair, blue eyes, rugged jawline, good looks, Viking physique, charm, courtliness, erudition, courtesy, good conversation, a sense of humour, education, passion, ambition, power and that dash of chivlary.”

She shut the book with a snap, “No, I think that’s fine. This is the perfect man.” and turned on the 500 V transformer in the middle of the thunderstorm, while simultaneously squeezing juice from a lemon into the eyes of the man on the metal table.

There was a crack and the castle was silhouetted briefly against the damp, dark night.

And the man woke.

“Pygmalion,” she whispered. “You are the perfect man for me. You are the person I have waited for my whole life.”

The man sized her up in a courtly, yet charming way, “Milady, I may be perfect for you, but you are not perfect for me.”


Love’s follies Part 1

Over the flicker of candlelight and the clink of cutlery,  the young man leaned towards his date.

He was already in love with her. Her face had launched a thousand ships from the harbour just 2 hours ago – she was the belle of the regatta after all. One murmur in her mellifluous voice and he would have laid his life for her.

He cleared his throat, and in his shyness, addressed the fork. “Tell me, tell me everything.”

The young woman looked puzzled, “Everything?”

“Yes, yes.” Said he, “I want you to be an open book, every page of which I want to read.” He was holding her hands in his, earnestly gazing into her pretty green eyes.

She took a deep breath, “Well, I was born in Colorado on 12th December, 1980 and then my mother wanted to come home 2 days later, but the doctors didn’t let her. Meanwhile, 5 people visited me on the first day…”

They were walking home and she was still talking, “And when I was 2, we moved into a loft…”

He was never again heard from.