Excuse me, Life- The Art of Letting Go

This is an anatomy of the process of letting go of a part of my heart and returning to normalcy.

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The past never sleeps. It keeps following you till you are dead. It’s like that Pandora’s box filled by each person with the memories they make with you. The fact that in every moment of our life someone or the other is making marks in the box makes the drill difficult because it implies that you cannot easily shut the box and dispose of it.

We all lose a lot in life. Be it the wrapping paper from the twelfth birthday or the favourite pencil box from fourth standard or even people; we are used to losing. In some cases, despite the best of efforts, letting go is inevitable. There are so many mechanisms we deploy to cope with losses. However, there is a difference between losing material objects and losing people. In case of the latter, the realization of having lost is gradual. This is what makes the process all the more excruciating.

To be the most candid and the least metaphorical, I would say it sucks. The feeling of becoming a lesser priority absolutely sucks. I really have no better way of expressing it. Having recently lost someone I once thought I could not live without, I can freshly recount some of the strategies that I used in a rough chronology comprising denial, hankering after attention and withdrawal.

Denial

Alright, so infinite number of may-be-she-is-busy-elsewhere’s, I-should-show-that-I-exist’s (this is your needy worst), am-I-asking-for-too-much’s later, you begin to come to terms with the fact that you have been relegated to a place less important than the one you used to have.

During this time I used to listen to ‘I Forget We Where We Were’ by Ben Howard on loop without even realizing. Looking back at it, I feel like I was being that teenager with an unrequited love passing through my Christina Perri phase, but I also know that it is just all right to love and expect someone else to love back. It really is one of the most human things one can do.

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Hankering after attention

Now we plunge into the second phase of hankering after attention (read love) from the previous one which can somewhat be called denial. This period is a new low you hit in terms of your self-esteem (well, at least I did). This is an extremely foolish self, trying to remind the other about its existence. Two things can happen- the person may reconcile for a happily-ever-after out of a fear of losing you or they may simply deny you further.

What makes this part significant in the scheme of losing a person is that it ascertains the future of the bond. I think reciprocity in relationships has been highly undervalued. You may feel that there is nothing wrong with loving without expecting to be loved back. A gentle reminder I came across on the internet: If someone loves you, they wouldn’t put themselves in a position of losing you. This should bring you to the next phase.

Withdrawal

This begins in misery and ends in wisdom. The moment you realize that you deserve better emancipates you to the point of knowledge that come what may, you can make your emotions a priority. This is what makes letting go so much more impactful than sticking around. It makes looking back at the coping mechanism worthwhile. This is when you feel like saying, “Excuse me, Life.

I am not sure if I should call this a reality check but it definitely helps one come to terms with what has actually happened. The fog is now out of your vision. There is no obscurity. You begin to value relationships, personal talents, books, metaphors (and beverages) you had earlier belittled. This is not an escape from the Pandora’s box of memories- there is no evading it; it’s an attempt to learn how to share space with it.tumblr_maf5h0trei1rp3n0ao1_500

Writing it out, I feel, is not an act I would relate with sitting at a busy crossroad and whining about the scheme of things. I feel writing about it is a way to tell yourself- I am more than the grief; I am above letting myself down, and most importantly that I can make an anatomy of my feelings to never repeat this self-rejection.

Who am I kidding? I am certain to cry buckets the next time something like this happens, albeit with a monster called retrospection fitted in my eyes.

Letter to the Woman I’ve Never Met

One of the few poured-my-heart-out posts on my blog to wish a happy twentieth to my fitness-flavoured Pun-dora’s box.

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Dearest ma’am

Love, as I have come to know, is most victimised by the whims of poets. I have woken up on numerous days to coffee table reveries brimming with how love looks, how it sounds in the lyrics of my favourite songs, how it smells in red flowers, how it tastes in the tongue of another person, and how it is described in the most romanticised nuances of language. I have had a lot of expectations about love. However, I have lately realised that this emotion loaded with myriad connotations is a mere process of rationalisation. You choose a vessel because you like how it looks, sounds, smells, tastes and also because of how others feel about it. Then you decide to look for magic in it. You keep doing so till the point when even if the bullets you had ticked on the check-list before signing up for love are detached from the vessel, you still can shower your passion upon it. It is a matter of consciously making yourself accustomed to a habit. Thank you for my best habit.

My habit of keeping one person in the subconscious did not start as an our-love-was-made-for-movie-screens kind. It began with the most mundane affair of all- coordinating with a photographer for a blogpost. This habit has taught me to breathe out of the quotidian; we have listened to our forever songs under a sky which made the stars look like disco lights, we have walked in seemingly ceaseless Calcutta rains under one umbrella, we have shared little infinities under the sun, and have with our cumulative youth, transformed closed spaces into celestial spectacles. (I doubt if things really were as magical as I claim them to be. Probably I have concocted all the magic simply because he was around.) It has also taught me to look at routines through the eyes of a new-born. This habit has been my only air on days reeking of steel elevator-like claustrophobia.

This habit is the newest one because I have spent only two months and a half with it, yet it is the oldest too because of all the calendars gone into the trashcan while rehearsing for it.

Love is mundane, banal, difficult, clichéd, repetitive, pretentious and what not! Mine has been all of these when I woke up in the middle of otherwise peaceful nights to complete unfinished poems while he was asleep, and I swear those poems now look like fresh paint on a palette tainted with colours which had dried up. In a world which has stigmatised the display of affection, lasting promises and honest “I do”s at the cost of relentlessly keeping up with the clock, my habit and I stand against the tide. I have not seen the future and I am aware that habits can change, that they are not immune to rust. I do not know if this is a permanent habit, but I am selfish enough to cling on to it with all my life. My habit tells me that you are the best that has ever happened to him; I am sure you are. Your happiness lights him up. I am grateful that you exist. I wish a happy twentieth to your motherhood.

Sincerely,

The woman in love with your son.

Two Odd Pages from a Journal

I performed this piece in my debut performance poetry event, Inbox by Saintbrush- the opening performance for ‘A History of Butchers’ by Mad About Drama (M.A.D) at Gyan Manch, Kolkata on 5th August, 2016.

The mailman delivered a box of clichés last night. It seems to have been sent by you. Wrapped in shining material with a perfectly colour-coordinated bow which reeks of courtships that have fossilised for eons in the soil of conventions, umm, the box looked somewhat appealing.

Turn to the bookmarked page

Ting! My cell-phone beeps every time you remember me. I cannot see your handwriting, but I’m sure if you grinned at my joke or blushed a little at the heart emoticon I had sent, because my screen can now emote or at least try to impersonate your emotions, thanks to the torchbearers of science. I have read blogs on texting etiquettes, I have memorized all the 8 ways of subtly indicating that I care for you; I have also…

Back to page ten

Yes, the box looked appealing. I opened it expecting you to surprise me. It had a letter with the smell of ink on it, smudged in some places with your messy fingers. A letter, it was, with minor spelling errors which I meticulously corrected. There was a mix-tape placed near it. I knew all the songs you would have compiled in it, yet played them to ensure I was right. While I was on my way from I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane to Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now

Turn to the bookmarked page again

I have also replied to all your messages instantly. A chatbox brimming with unread messages, to me, is a heap of potential typographical errors. I have rectified all your typos with clear asterisk signs since forever. But this time when I open your messages, it is not mere text or emoticons- it is a list of YouTube links. Not that I have not heard Thinking Out Loud and Yellow earlier, but your clichés don’t fail to amuse me.

To page ten again

Inside the box I see a perfume lying like the italicised alphabets in a page full of regular font. You always excelled at customisation, didn’t you? So you chose the very same apparel perfume from the exact brand I have always used. Despite knowing that you would send a handwritten letter, a mix-tape and my staple perfume, I feign surprise at your choice of gifts.

Back to the bookmarked page

I type out that I have heard both the songs and that my favourite singer is Ed Sh… I delete what I just typed, and send, “How did you come across these tracks? My gosh! They are lovely.”

Close the diary

Our transition from letterboxes to chatboxes has in it a series of infinities denying the ravages of the clock. The pages between my page ten and the one which is bookmarked are three hundred and sixty degrees apart. Three hundred and sixty degrees do not always imply a complete change. Just sometimes, it means that after oscillations between unexpected clichés and habitual surprises, you have returned to the starting point, unchanged.

Featured image by Anish Kayal

A Rainy Ride through Memories

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Raindrops accumulate on the surface of glass like metaphors abandoned by poets for eons- unwanted and intimidating because they disclose more about scattered pieces of miracles than you ever would want to let out. The little you can discern from among the raindrops is all that the city lets you see. The ellipses between parked yellow cabs really are the words that were shushed as soon as thought-parachutes were released up in the air. This city under its colourful everyday hides heaps of dusty grey rags in its drains and when it gets waterlogged, the freshwater and dirt, dirt and freshwater are hard to be distinguished from each other. It’s pretty much the same with memories.

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The rain-washed streets are testimony to all that you have shut out of your senses. The glass window of your car does not let the past drench you. As you traverse the city that you like to call your own, the air conditioning blows hard on the commonplace odour-remnants of your past, so as not to make you cringe anymore. What is the loud music that you are playing, but your desperate attempt to pick, choose and thrust memories into the trashcan of make-believe stories that you have been concocting ever since an undelivered letter was mashed in the heavy showers of what seems like a bygone era? You keep playing the song that has enmeshed itself to get trapped in a particular situation, merely relying on those poor auditory nerves to recreate the pathos of a past moment. You speed up your car more than ever, without realising that it is not the empty avenues you are crossing, but actually your past that is haunting you to pace up.

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You have been a conjunction amidst sentences that Eternity has been pronouncing since forever. These sentences have punished you enough for all the mistakes you are yet to commit. You have not felt a lot of emotions, just as you have felt a lot of them. Rewind a bit. Have you not waited as impatiently as a writer does for that one email from a publisher? Have you not, in the hopelessness of rejected fantasies, hovered like an aimless satellite in a galaxy of unicorns? Have you not felt that all the persons whom you have ever bumped into were cities- each having their most happening areas alongside the darkest of alleys which nobody prefers to inhabit; have you not wondered once they outgrew you as to where you did go wrong, and racked your brain in search of an answer later on? If you could embrace this series of infinity, you can combat all that lies ahead in this city which is nothing but a simile for change.

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Who ever loved that yearned not for miracles thinking of the sky as a wish-granting factory while sitting by the window during heavy showers? Get out of that comfort zone. Immerse yourself in the clichés that you have been hell-bent on avoiding. Go, get drenched in the rain. After that, as you gaze at the paper boats of childhood, the dream-loaded cargoes of the decades when they wanted you to be an adult, and the scattered mud pools of hope which nobody ever wished to take back home, let your past to the rain. You will know why this city never lets you die with dilemmas unresolved.

Visiting a Dream With Maa

You forget to pack your slippers. The thought of packing eyeliner comfortably recedes to oblivion. You even do pretty well without your watch for a good two days’ time- something you never could have imagined. All you clearly remember to pack is the novel you currently are reading, your Lennon shades and a desire to seize every moment you spend during a two-night trip. These are not features peculiar to the trip to Shantiniketan that my mother and I undertook during the five days of Easter break this year, but they apply to every other short trip which is planned one day prior to setting out for the destination. There still is something which allows this trip the status of a bookmark between pages of hindsight. It shall remain, I am sure, a reference point I will inevitably have to return to during every other trip henceforth.

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The Ranga Maatir Poth

On the third holiday, I had been whining about getting bored through the Easter break when Maa casually proposed that we could spend the remaining days at Shantiniketan. I was nowhere to be seen in that room soon after; I instantly began to choose the clothes I would take. The next morning found us in the train to Bolpur, undertaking the first ever mother-daughter trip of my life, because Baba could not manage a leave. I had Murakami’s storytelling to kill time, but I realised that neither an iPod brimming with The XX and Lana Del Rey, nor that science fiction in my hand, were at that hour required to keep company. There is something about train journeys- something that never quite lets you get tired of the greenery you see out of the window. So I decided to give in to the strange demand of the moment. This was only one of the series of lessons I learnt through the trip.

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The picturesque sunset at Shonajhuri

Unlike in other trips where Baba being the strongest out of the three of us, carried most of the luggage, it was me doing so this time. The customary visit to Shonajhuri through “ranga maatir poth” (the road with red soil), as Tagore put it, had me singing a Rabindra Sangeet or two to the very discomfort of Maa and the driver. (I carried on with my torturous singing though.) Having reached the place echoing with chants by Bauls(folk singers of the region) and having bought some fancy embroidery and junk jewellery from the haat (Bengali for a temporary physical market), Maa and I wanted to click pictures of ourselves against the diffused light of sundown, but realised that there was nobody who could capture a decent frame of the two of us. Thus, we resorted to dualfies. Such little things that mark this trip as being distinct from any other I have ever taken.

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A part of the museum

Next morning, we strolled through the Visva Bharati campus- the open-air university which Rabindranath Tagore had envisioned. It is a precious experience to travel with the woman who held your hand as you once toddled into the richness of Bengali literature, to the abode of the greatest bard that Bengal has ever produced. As we visited the museum which curates as artefacts physical remains of the life of Rabindranath Tagore, I could feel that Tagore is not a poet from an earlier century, but my personal source of mirth when I have had enough of a bad day. The atmosphere bore him in a way which is hard to get rid of. I could not have had a company better than Maa who, through her mesmerizing elocution, has made Tagore a part of my consciousness while I was unaware of the same. This trip was the three hundred and sixtieth degree of my discovery of Tagore through Maa. The bard is my very own now.

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The Kopai

The trip ended with a visit to the Kopai river, adjacent to which is a crematorium which forces one into a quick transition into a contemplative state of mind.

This is not a guide to a perfect mother-daughter trip. Nor is it a travelogue about Shantiniketan. I am sure you will find that elsewhere. This is my attempt to discover the universality of an experience which is special, not owing to its peculiarities of time and date. In fact, it is difficult for me to track down at this point such exact details about the trip. I only want to look back at this years later as a trip with Maa to the dream of Rabindranath Tagore- as a milestone at the age of eighteen in my journey of finding myself.

Here are some more frames from the trip.

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