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I’m convinced (especially as I grow older) that the real beginning is the middle.

Not that I am anywhere close to the middle of anything – I have neither lived long enough, nor done anything long enough to truly understand the tedium of moving towards the middle.

As time passes, though, I suppose I experience more and more, the middle of things.

The middle of a book, the middle of a song, the middle of the week (Wednesdays, days of part hope and part despair, depending on which side of the bed you wake up that morning), the middle of a relationship (no one, hardly anybody talks about the middle of any relationship, maybe because one does not want to think of the end of it, but….do you have to know the end, to understand the middle?), and so on and so forth.

***
Today, in the middle of a walk – the sweet smell of a particular brand of soap used to wash clothes.

The last time I had encountered this smell was in a lover’s home; he had passed me his T-shirt to wear for the night, and as someone deeply inspired by smells, I had pressed my nose into the sweet-smelling garment and taken a deep, deep breath.

When I told him how wonderful his shirt smelt, he looked at me in surprise, and told me that it was the first time anyone had ever told him that. 

Later that morning, when I left his place, I buried my face in his chest and took a deep, deep breath, trying to memorise the feel of his arms around me, and the feeling of being surrounded by all that warmth and the beautiful smell of clean clothes. 

I didn’t know then, that I was trying hard to capture something to survive a loss.

That time, it was not the middle. It was almost the end of things. 

***

The smell disappeared into the morning air, and I continued walking, still, still, somewhere in the middle of things.

Of memories, and thoughts, and days, and this life –

***

Last week – a documentary that ripped at the insides and asked what does it mean to be a woman, where big words like indigenous and minority rights lay like fine haze in a dark air conditioned room, where at midnight, we talked about being women, and how there was no generalisation, there could never be a generalisation on behaviour, because your woman is very different from my woman, but together, women, we love, we need, and we will help and support one another. That night, for the one hour that sleep visited, dreams so dark of intestines spilling out, a girl’s tears, and a mother’s disappointment. Women.

A few days ago – 3.5 years later, a reunion, but is it really a reunion when the friendship had always been there, where the cord of love had always remained, pulsating some days brighter, some days, not so bright, but always, always, present. 3.5 years later, when conversation flowed around Truth, and memories, and a smile so bright, and a declaration: I am happy. I cannot write, I have not written, but I am happy. Maybe, because, there was no more sadness to fuel the words, maybe, the process, the business of living had taken all the emotions and set them aside for a while – rest, says life. Know me first. Then, the words will come. That night, for the one hour that sleep visited, dreams of swarthy hands, and wine, and salt, and a shade of tea that I can never forget but with only two sugars, and the goodbye, but with love, with love, the finality, after 3.5 years.

Yesterday – the colours of red and fractured orange making patterns behind the film of incense that twirled and caressed and rose into the dark, somewhere into white ceiling, with the sound of waves, crashing, furious, furious, continuously crashing, a medley of arriving and retreating, a little like two people, a little like two hearts, a lot like two mouths, the red, the deep red of bruised, the deep red of a wall hanging, the deep red of a spot on the map, the deep red of wine, and inside, silence. That night, for the first time, in a long time, sleep.

I want to write about many things I have seen this year.

***

The first time I saw the river Ganges, placid, calm, cool, until she claimed a life, and my toe ring. Mud so soft, so caked, so easily spread over skin just a shade lighter, submerging, coming up for air, cool water, strong undercurrents, knowing, knowing, that one slip is enough to lose it all. (Or to gain it all)

The sight of a lake so big, it was a sea, or so they said. A lake-that-is-a-sea that glittered and seduced, where heat rose, and salt remained collected on the undersides, the undersides of the lake/sea-belly, the undersides of my eyes, the undersides; that one afternoon where I sat and wrote and watched the lake glitter and remembered with so much gratitude that life is here, present, for taking, for giving, for living (but oh how easily we forget all of this)

The sight of that man, the one who broke my heart because my foolish heart thought it could save him. The sight of that man, the one who I couldn’t remain with, because my not-so-foolish heart knew it couldn’t save him. The sight, both times, the joy, the homecoming, the sweetness, then, the inevitable, the goodbye, no see-you-laters this time.

The sight of the clouds rolling in, so softly, so slowly, as the drizzle, so fine, so gossamer fine, landed on tired skin, the moment so perfect in its quiet, in its arrival, in its grandeur that was without assumed fanfare, the sight, oh, the sight.

The sight of my mother, just arisen from the shores of death’s calling, the relief, the sight but the relief, the sight of my mother, drips attached, unconscious, arising again, from the distant shores of pain, the worry, the sight incomparable to the worry, the sight of my mother, one I take for granted on days where mundanity overwhelms, but, the sight.

The sight of these words forming on white, once, twice, but not, the first, the sight of words that were formed years ago, remembering, recognising, knowing, you are not alone, the sight of words on gadgets, on paper, on papyrus, on scripts, scriptures, the sight of words that sooth, the sight of words that satiate, the sight of words that fire, that anger, the sight of words, a friend, a reminder, but mostly, mostly, a return, a homecoming.

Of tattoos, memories, and a lifetime of stories. 

I saw the birds on my back woven on the pallu of my mother’s sari, and realised with startling clarity that I was trying to wind freedom around me , without realizing how stifling that could be.

I slip off my sari blouse and the air settles onto the wings of my birds; slowly, slowly, my back flexes into life.


There is something to be said about a woman whose shoulders can comfortably hold the weight of the world and her own freedom. Head held high, spine curving gently, dip of the hip, another tattoo, skin settled so gently over bones, tight muscle.

There is something to be said about this woman, who has birds on her back and blood in between her eyebrows. When she opens her mouth, something like love, escapes.

He watches the curve of her shoulder as her blouse slips down; the moonlight catches the slight shape of bone.

There are some dreams worth writing about. Especially if they could have happened to you sometime before, in the yesterday.

***

I can’t remember very well anymore. Some years ago, I would have told you that this was my greatest wish, to forget, to un-remember, to leave the past where it belonged, along cobbled roads and tree-lined parks.

Now, I can’t say the same. After all, all that is left of our stories are the memories we can remember, no matter how hard the story was to live through.

This dream-which-may-have-happened came in flashes; in dream-time, eternity is but a second, and yet, people and places and words and colours move so slowly.

I was asleep; you had just returned home. I hadn’t seen you in a few days, you had gone for a holiday with your friends, a holiday you had been very excited about. I was happy you were finally traveling after all those years in the country. I hadn’t expected you back at that time, or maybe, I had – you always kept me expectant and eager, and that was what I loved most about you.

You came into the room, everything in my dream-memory is colored golden; this could be my romanticism manifesting itself, or it could be the light from your night lamp which I had left switched on.

I began to wake up; you had crawled into bed with me, and you were smiling, and I was probably smiling too, even though I was still half-asleep. I was all bed-hair and drool, but you didn’t care.

Maybe that was love, this acceptance, this coming-home-to phenomenon, this together-even-though-we-are-apart.

Maybe, you had missed it the few nights away. Maybe you hadn’t.

My dream-me would never know.

I exclaimed sluggishly, incandescently, that you were back. You smiled, and then kissed me. Something in me, my dream-me came unlocked.

You told me about your trip; I was mostly listening, still a little asleep, in awe at how happy you were. You kissed me again, I laughed. I might have fallen back asleep as you continued your stories; at some point, I told you what I had cooked that night, and you said you wanted what I had made.

I think it was 1am. I was telling you to help yourself.

The next moment, I am waking up.

There is golden light in my eyes.