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Sometimes, just sometimes, there is some good in having insomniac musings. 

***

That’s the thing about love. 

You never know when it is going to come into your life, sometimes, so softly that you have no idea that it has arrived, until it has settled into your skin, a light weight. You realise that your eyes are a little brighter, that your smile has started to reach your eyes again, that you are lost in thought about his eyes, his hands, the way he smiled at you that one (and only) night, his smell. You realise that you tremble when you say his name, because name is power, and a name that has so much meaning, so much importance in your life, becomes an echo in your mouth that doesn’t quite go away. You realise all these things, and you wonder when it happened, and you can never quite pinpoint the exact moment. 

It has happened. There is nothing else left to do but to live with it. Nurture it. Accept it. Let the love mould you, as you mould love. There’s no other way about it. It is a beautiful surrender, but nothing short of a surrender will allow for survival.

That’s the thing about love. It finds you when you least expect it. And by the time you realise what has happened, you’re caught. The best part is, you know there is no where else you’d rather be. 

Of slow, dreamy afternoons.

***

The sunlight is dancing along the curve of my anklet. It comes quickly, sneakily, this afternoon, like an illicit lover. The light stretches out its long, lean fingers, teases deftly, catches my attention just so; then it runs away.

I stretch my foot towards the sky. The heat rests on my soul like the tender touch of a mother who caresses her sleeping child.

It is afternoon. It is a Monday that could very well be a Sunday. I am sitting in a golden couch. The sunshine moves quickly. The music, it moves, slower. The breath, slowest of them all.

I am finding my heaven in snatches.

 

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You find love lessons in the strangest places. This time, by the lakeside.

A travel journal entry from the city of Shuang Nang, China. 

***

We are sitting on a wooden construction that serves as as a docking bay for boats, but really, is just a convenient structure for eager travellers to park themselves by the lake. There is water for miles, and miles around. The sun is beginning to set. 

We were told that we would be visiting a seaside town. We found out, only after we had arrived, that there was no sea, only a lake, a lake so big, so fresh, so blue, that the people of the city had started calling it a sea. 

Welcome to Shuang Nang, where rolling hills and the sea-which-is-a-lake greet you for days on end. 

If you had told me several years ago that I would be sitting by the edge of a limitless lake in a small city in the Southern province of China watching the sun set, I would have scoffed in your face and flounced away.

(Such is life. You never know what is going to happen to you.) 

The wind is strong. The tide is rising. Each time a big wave comes to rock our proverbial boat (so, to speak), we shriek like children. The waves are relentless, singleminded in their movement of heading towards the shore, eager tourists be damned. The water sprays us each time a wave dissolves against our legs. 

We are in the middle of our journey. (This is a strange pattern I have, picking out the middles and telling the story from a point of nowhere, which is really, somewhere). We have been on the road for some time now, traveling from one city to another, as one does on road trips. Shuang Nang had been a pleasant, relaxing surprise after the hectic cityscape of Hong Kong, the nothingness of Kunming and the serenity of Da Li. 

The day we had arrived, I had picked up my ever faithful pink-checkered backpack, and scooted up to the balcony of our hostel. There was some shade. There was a pleasant view of the lake. There was a place for me to sit, stretch my legs out, plug in some music and sing my heart out while I wrote. It had been a good start to our two-day stay. 

(It’s only when you spend a lot of time moving around, that you start becoming grateful for the smallest signs of permanence. Like the vendor opposite your hostel. The shape of the unfamiliar bed that is more familiar than most faces you see on the street. The time the sun sets every evening. Little things.)

Back to the scene by the edge of the sea-which-is-a-lake. 

I am here with my best friend and his partner. We are sitting together, huddling against the wind, giggling, watching the sun set. 

And how wonderfully the sun sets. Backlit clouds, singular light rays falling onto the lake like stairways to heaven, the hills slowly being shrouded by the evening mist. The sky starts turning colours I have no names for. I find myself clutching my heart, as if I don’t know what to do with all this beauty. 

This will go down in my life as one of my most precious memories.

Love does that to you. It shows you how absolutely wondrous it is, just to witness to some of the simplest, everyday things that make up life.

Love. 

It took me some time to understand that this trip was not about finding myself, or about escaping from the mundane routines of life, or about taking 500 pictures for me to populate Instagram with in the coming months.

This trip was a huge, smack-in-the-face reminder about Love, which I had started losing sight of. 

When you travel with others, the biggest gift you can get is being able to observe and learn from the people you’re sharing your time and space with. 

My best friend and his partner showed me that love was at its brightest in the small, daily choices of life. Like eating together. Walking hand-in-hand down unknown streets, goofing around. Being silent together. Putting another’s needs before yours. Sharing a smile. Not taking yourself, or your other half too seriously all the time (because what is life, without laughter).  Arguing, then making up, because no morning deserves to begin on a sour note. Forgiveness. Acceptance, because everyone’s learning, just like you are, just like I am. Reaching out. Constantly reaching out even when you don’t want to, because everyone is going through his or her own version of darkness, and everyone likes being reached out to. 

Love – the willing choice. 

These are things I’ve known, and lost sight of, along the way. The problem of becoming too immersed in a daily 9 – 5 lifestyle is that you start thinking that that’s what life is all about. You think that your work emails, and your house bills, and your daily commuting woes are big milestones, and that it is okay to constantly operate from a space of frustration, irritation and cynicism all the time. It is also very easy to think that you are the hero, heroine and supporting cast of your life. (You aren’t, just so you know). 

Sitting with my friends by the sea-which-is-a-lake, watching the magnificent sun nestle between the hills, was a beautiful, necessary perspective, that no amount of riches could provide. 

The tide is rising higher. I’m shivering in the cold. There are many eager tourists who want to take our spot and take selfies. 

Naturally, we beat them to it. 

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Following a series of love letters I have written here, and here:

There are some things I want to tell you.

I want to tell you that after I met you, I was reminded of all the ways that loving someone could hurt the insides, and the outsides.

I want to tell you that I expected more from you; you who write and speak as if you understand the world and its people, you who communicate as if you understand your pain and the pain of others, you, with your worldly ways. I want to tell you that I expected you to be less selfish, and be the person I thought you were.

I want to tell you that I am sad that I don’t know what happens in your everyday anymore, and that sometimes, I don’t care enough to be sad about this. That saddens me even further. I want to tell you that.

I want to tell you that on some days, I can still remember the way you kissed me. I want to tell you that on some days, this reminder makes me happy, and that on some days, this reminder makes me terribly sad.

I want to tell you that I am angry that I am sad.

I want to tell you that I am angry that you are so selfish that you have not seen my sadness, or asked after it.

I want to tell you that I did not deserve to be treated with your silence, and that you, intellectual being that you are, have failed in your wiseness in treating another human person, and that this makes me lose my respect for you a little.

I want to tell you that you are not on a pedestal any longer.

I want to tell you that I felt like I was not good enough for you, since the day I left you, because you never talked about what happened between us, and because you never bothered to ask how I felt about it all. I want to tell you that I am angry at myself for allowing you to  make me feel this way. And I want to tell you that that hurts the worst, that my relationship with myself has soured because of the relationship I wanted to have with you.

I want to tell you that I don’t want to waste our friendship, but most times, friendships have to be earned, and I don’t have the goodwill I think I need to be magnanimous with you at this stage in my life.

I want to tell you that I hope some day, something will change inside of you and you will not treat someone else the way you treated me.

I want to tell you that I love you, and perhaps, that is the best and the worst thing about all of this, that I cannot turn off my feelings the way I can turn off a phone.

Yes, there are some things I want to tell you.

I’m starting to think this could be a collection in itself; previous letters are here, and here

“Also, the cure for everything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.”

***

I am sitting by myself, reading Ondaatje’s Divisadero. The waitress arrives and places my plate of pesto pasta in front of me. Instinctively, as I reach out for cutlery, I call out to her, asking for some salt.

A few days ago, my mother told me that I take too much salt with my food. I had laughed, then, and continued to sprinkle white crystals over my sautéed tofu. Mother never puts enough salt in her food, and she knows this too. But she is my mother, and there are certain things she must do, and say, to remind herself, and me, that she is looking out for me. That I am still her daughter. That she is still able to take care of me in such ways, however small.

The waitress returns with the salt; I scatter it slowly and carefully over the multi-hued green noodles.

***

I’ve never always liked salt, at least, not until I met you.

When you cooked, I would be the final arbiter on how the food was. You would let me have the first taste and then,  you would adjust the amount of salt accordingly depending on what I had said. However, whenever you ate, there would always be salt on the side, just in case you wanted more.  You loved salt. I would warn you that you should watch how much salt you consumed, that it was not good for your heart. You would tell me that your heart had a hole in it anyway, and that depriving yourself of tasty food was not going to make you live any longer. I would shake my head exasperatedly. There was no use in arguing with you about these things.

(Even then, I had started to learn my lessons a little too early.)

Watching you cook, I understood several things. I understood how the added pinch of salt into any dish could transform it from being mediocre to extraordinary. I understood that when you sautéed the onions with the salt before adding the meat, everything smelt more fragrant, and the meat would cook better. But you had to be careful that the onions would not brown too fast. It is all about timing, you would say. I would ignore you and focus on making my dish turn out right. You were not the easiest to please, and after being with you, I had become as critical, as much a perfectionist, when it came to cooking.

I had also begun to love salt.

That was when I realised that when you were with someone, some of them became you, and some of you became them. You would even start to resemble one another, only because you would have picked up the same habits. Like how I would fold jeans like you did, first the bottom, then the top, before stacking everything neatly in a corner. Or how you would buy donuts from the city centre for 2 pounds, and eat everything in one sitting, fingers slightly burning, mouth slightly burning, dough melting in your mouth, just like how I liked them. You started saying cushty, instead of comfortable, like I did, while I started to learn how to cook Kapa, just like you did.

Little things. Little things that eventually made the big thing much, much bigger between us.

***

Then, you left.

Well, I left first, and then you left, and then I was waiting and waiting, but you did not return. I stopped cooking, because I did not know what to do with food, and this eating business, and nourishing myself, especially when all I did was wait for you.

But even then, even then, there was a lot of salt.

This time, I would taste salt on the side of my lips, where tears had rolled down my face through the night, and I had fallen asleep without wiping them dry. Sometimes I would taste salt on my fingertips after I had hurriedly brushed them against my eyes. Those were the days when there was no stopping the salt from leaving my body; I would not even know I had been crying until I would find myself sniffling, find myself curled up in a public toilet, hugging my arms tightly around my body, holding everything inside in hopes that it would stop me from wanting to burst, to explode, from all that misery and anguish that was taking up space inside.

There was no getting rid of the salt, then. It was everywhere. Behind my eyes, on the tip of my tongue. So much salt, you would have been proud.

(Maybe this was why I had started falling in love with salt all those years ago. To prepare myself for that moment, that space where I would have to bring all the salt I had in me out, out, and be okay with it. Who knows, really.)

***

A long time later, I started meditating by the sea. There was something comforting about picking out the little grains of salt and sun and sand resting on the skin. There was something comforting about knowing the sea where this salt had come from; the tireless, ever-generous, kind Mother sea with her hands full of salt became a safe place.

(Sometimes, when my eyes were closed, I could feel the salt in my body surging to meet the salt of the sea. This, I took as a kind of rebirth, a rejuvenation).

***

I take the first bite of my pesto pasta. It is perfectly salted.