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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Image Source

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.

5 Reasons Why Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya is the Ultimate Love Anthem

“Why be afraid when you are in love?” is what Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya literally translates to. It appears in the iconic film Mughal-e-Azam which was released in 1960 after 14 years of production. Here’s why it might just as well be termed as India’s song of defiance.

1. It defies persistent gender roles

Gender, as Judith Butler (1960) contends, is constructed through a set of repeated performances. The dance by Madhubala’s Anarkali serves the male gaze appropriately- you will find the camera focusing on her many a time during the sequence. However, Anarkali does not shy away from this gaze. She confronts it and this is a major point of departure from what would otherwise be expected out of a woman of her times in India. She liberates herself from the framework of gender that she operates in.

2. A symbol for LGBT rights movement

Pyaar Kiya Toh Darna Kya has now become a slogan for the emergent LGBT (Lesbian, Gay,Bisexual, Transgender) rights movement in India. It is an anthem about the triumph of love across social boundaries. The song surpasses time and space. It has gained significance as a form of protest voiced by more than an Anarkali. Madhubala’s Kathak is today a symbol of love against conservative forces. It is not long before this song can be an effective answer to those who are so worried about love-jihad.

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A line from the song on a poster for Rainbow Walk on Delhi Road. Image Source

 

3. A Drag Queen of sorts?

A drag queen is a man who ostentatiously dresses up in women’s clothes. Going by queer theory, a male drag queen in stylizing normative femininity simultaneously deconstructs it too. Madhubala’s drag queen not only challenges dominant discourses of power contained within a patriarchal nation-state, but she also threatens the discourses on sexualization of the body. She is aware of her class, religion, nationality and gender, yet she chooses to digress from the destiny paved for her.

Like all women who do this, her demise in the tale is also not very surprising. The song is that struggle for the identity of the subaltern which keeps returning to the Bollywood celluloid.

4. Anarkali is a brave subaltern

She is a courtesan. She is Muslim and what’s worse is that she is a woman. In short, she embodies all that you would not like to be in a royal setup comprising men during the Mughal period in India. Salim had, in fact, just before the performance, accused her of being a bujdil laundi (cowardly slave). A play of power recurs through the song-and-dance performance but even that fails to deter the spirit of love in the status of a subaltern that Anarkali finds herself in. She is a woman with little agency dancing across an empire’s patriarch.

5. The sequence reflects India’s tryst with destiny

Anarkali’s performance for the court can be compared to Bollywood’s performance for Jawaharlal Nehru. The movie Mughal-e-Azam opens with a baritone proclaiming, “I am Hindustan”. The then Hindustan was associated with sentiments different from those it now is. The film was made during India’s period of nation-building. Despite being set in the Mughal period, the sequence vividly portrays what was despised by the nationalist elites of post-colonial India- films (they were equated with gambling). What is now called the Golden Age of Indian cinema was then not a cakewalk for the film industry because it used to be regarded more as a perversion or disruption to advancement than as a form of cultural expression. This hurdle is encountered by Anarkali as well.


The song is a breakthrough from several dominant social norms. This does not make it any less appealing to the masses. It enthralls audiences all the same despite being as revolutionary as it is. This is what makes it the ultimate love anthem.

Do share if you find any other reason why this song-and-dance should be called so.

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

How to Solve the Valentine’s Day Crossword

I bought our love from Archies this time, because I feel my last break-up was a consequence of that hand-made love I had gifted her. This time I shall make no more mistakes. I’ll be more calculative about this affair. Each move in this courtship will be a planned one. If I am investing my time in something, I shall make sure that I reap benefits from it. Let me check my phone. Oh, so she’s seen my message, yet has not bothered to reply. Does she doubt my sincerity? Is she faithful enough for me? Even if she’s not, I’ll have to make her my girl. I will gift her something expensive this Valentine’s Day. That should make her happy. What should I buy her- a pendant or a ring…or something else? Girls usually like ornaments. I’ll pay for the lunch tomorrow. Boys should not demean themselves by being stingy. They should spend. So will I. I think I need to make the first moves to indicate that I love her. Girls usually tend to be shy in such matters.

Love is a mortgage loan drawn on an uncertain, and
inscrutable, future.

-Zygmunt Bauman

 

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Photo by Sudeshna Mukherjee

Amy Winehouse, through her legendary song, not only drove home that love is a losing game, but also got across the hang of measuring love in terms of profit and loss. The classist assumption of conflating love to the amount of money spent on it leads to viewing the economically underprivileged as less capable of human emotions. Hence, the romance of having tea in bhaar (earthen tea cup) appears less romantic when compared to the romance of a dear candle-light dinner at a restaurant.This hang, astonishingly, is nothing new. The tendency of gauging love on a yardstick of the material benefits accrued from it has been there since a Ulysses shaped in the Victorian Age by Tennyson, moaned,

It little profits that an idle king,

[…]

Match’d with an aged wife

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Photo by Pallavi Majumdar

While running the risk of sounding crudely economical, I would opine that besides the kind of returns we expect from love, the kind of investment we make has also undergone tremendous change from the time Ulysses was dissected by a Homer and a Dante to the so-called post-modern period. Earlier, the time spent between two people in love was the most treasured asset of the relationship. It is not unknown to us that with time, staying connected 24×7 has impacted our lives so much so that we are each an island in ourselves today, waiting to be explored by a sailor. We know a lot of faces, but do we bother to know what each one would have to say, if, perhaps given more space and time?We, under the veil of absolute transparency, hide our basic insecurities of losing. Hence, the incomparable joy of receiving a letter from one’s lover has been replaced by its more convenient and concise counterpart- text messages. Unlike in letter writing, the sender does not give away a part of themselves any more- it is a luxury that cannot be afforded through text messages. Probably that is why finding a replacement for a person is a lot easier now. Using chat as a form of romantic gratification when one’s partner is not around is nothing but finding a human substitute for them.

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Photo by Pallavi Majumdar

I do not know if the expression of love has got better with time. However, it is safe to assert that so well accustomed are we to commodities, that we have started to commoditize those we love. While a teenager from the previous century would be content with, say sharing a glass of drink with their partner, the teenager today would be preoccupied with such questions as which café to choose for their first date. Choices always come coupled with dilemma. This dilemma has trickled down from material objects of possession to, well, material subjects of love. The line between what to like and whom to love has been blurred. So eluded are we into depending on markets that we do not stop bargaining until we come across the person (profile) befitting all our parameters of requirement.

Partnerships are increasingly seen through the prism of promises and expectations, and as a kind of product for consumers: satisfaction on the spot, and if not fully satisfied, return the product to the shop or replace it with a new and improved one! You don’t, after all, stick to your car, or computer, or iPod, when better ones appear.

-Zygmunt Bauman

We need human beings manufactured according to our convenience, to derive maximum utility out of them. Sounds much like the shift of the site of production post-Industrial Revolution? The only way out of this is to accept more of others (agony aunt mode alert) as they are.

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Photo by Pallavi Majumdar

Despite the many changes that have transformed courtship and its means, one thing has persisted across the ages- heteronormativity and its resultant androcentrism around the idea of love. For the longest period in history, men have been on their knees to propose love to their mistresses, thus perpetuating almost as a norm that women are supposed to be sexually passive. Our films idealise the couples with unambiguous sexuality, the books we read immortalise the chronicles of heterosexual couples, our sitcoms ridicule homosexuals; we are, at every point in our lives, reminded that heterosexuality and monogamy are worth being relationship goals. The frame of love has no space for the spectrum that gender is. The insecurity faced by those with alternate sexualities is indeed a heavy price paid for viewing love through the cherished lens of majoritarian ideals. We need the love that can sustain, not the love that can sell.

The overbearing definition of romantic love as the only form of true love overlooks other kinds of relationships such as platonic friendship, sisterhood, parenthood et al. I love love on every day of the year, just as I love celebrating the day of love and those whom I love. I love celebrating my love for myself. Red is not the only colour of love. Love is green, orange, blue, and every other colour. This Valentine’s Day, let us paint a world where love is too precious to come with a price tag.

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Photo by Pallavi Majumdar