Death of a flat faced boy

It was Friday the 13th when he killed himself. I don’t think its a coincidence that he chose this day to perform his act, because knowing him he probably planned it so, and chuckled at his ‘splendid’ idea of turning myth into reality. Friday the 13th. The day bad things supposedly happen. Not supposedly anymore.

His were the smallest eyes I had ever seen, like they were slit with blades which disappeared when he laughed. Its amazing how much one can change when in love. The flat faced angry boy fell in love and learnt to see the beauty of life.

Though he had a vision of himself as a MAN’S MAN in a house full of girls he could only be so much of a man! Discussing lady problems with him around was not a big deal, nor was the time he puked in front of us after a dizzy amusement park ride. No fucks were given when we came out of the shower wrapped in a towel or pranced around the house in hot pants because we wouldn’t have it any other way.  The boy assured me that my Knight in shining armor was not the one I was chasing, and when I found the real one (albeit in a Royal Enfield Bullet) he was one of the first to see that I had found the one. He was extremely shy in front of strangers and, I cannot be grateful enough that he and Diego became friends at the drop of a hat. And the movie hangovers! The boy appropriated the character of Jaguar Paw (from the movie Apocalypto) for days to come and, couldn’t stop addressing himself in third person when he was feeling extraordinarily cool.

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I missed him when I saw a friend’s boy-friend singing songs to her on her bachelorette. That should have been my flat faced friend wishing me luck with his Blink 182 songs. I missed him when I took a moment at my wedding party and saw the happy faces dancing around. His face should have been there and shone the brightest. I miss having someone who will agree to putting on make-up, slip into a dress and pose for the camera (and then point out that we forgot to make fake boobs for him). I hold on to the times when we chatted about Kim Kardashian’s butt while I ironed his shirts. Or the time we played poker with popcorns and chips and drank champagne out of steel tumblers and college coffee mugs.

Sometimes we take things at face value and leave things unsaid. A day before his death he asked a few friends if they will miss him when he’s gone. Nobody could process the question and gave him all sorts of funny answers. And then he wiped himself off the face of  the earth. Since then I have come to believe how important it is to show that one cares even if that is “out of character”. While talking about everything around the world sometimes we forget to ask how the other person is really doing. Not what-did-you-do-for-weekend kind of doing. In the cauldron of coulda, woulda, shoulda I wonder if things could change if we had told him obvious things like how much he meant to us, that we will always be there for him, that love will come back again. Well, we should have because what was obvious to us clearly wasn’t to him.

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I read somewhere that we are all afraid to say too much, to feel too deeply and to let people know what they mean to us lest that puts us in a vulnerable position. Well, that will never be me again. For I know what it feels like to leave a friend in a place and walk ahead in life. I only wonder if tomorrow when I meet him on the other side and ask him “Chinky, why did you do that?”, if he will simply shrug his shoulders like he always did and answer ,”I don’t know”.

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Never Again

SAY MY NAME

HEISENBERG.

No, that isn’t my name, and I know I fooled no one . But like Heisenberg I developed along with my name.

As a child it wasn’t easy for me to say my name. I couldn’t generally enunciate the letter ‘s’, thereby pronouncing Kasturi (then) as Katuri, which means bowl in my language. And naturally the laughter that ensued post introducing myself did not do very well in the department of liking my own name. There are 1001 reasons for a young person to get red in the face.

Then came years of living an introverted pre-teen life making it hard to appreciate the sound of my name, since it either meant that the teacher wants me to read out something in class (Golly! What if I pronounce the words wrong?), or I had to respond to attendance calls, or I was told by my friends if I could play with them or not. I disliked the attention my name brought to me, I wanted to disappear but it didn’t let me. Was I shy? No. Was I low on confidence? Terribly so!

Then I wanted to change my name to Karishma, the name of my favourite actor at that time. I was obsessed with this idea and begged my parents to make the change. They gave it a thought; while I spent days and nights imagining being under dizzy lights and stars (hell yes I was going to be an actor now!) and practiced my new signature (because autographs, bro) on all surfaces. Then. Then I came across another mesmerizing name and ran to my parents with the new discovery. They realized that it’s just a phase and we never went ahead with the name change. The lights went out and the stars faded; what remained was Kasturi.

By the time I was a teenager I was ok with my name. I decided to add double ‘o’ in place of ‘u’ and I was ready to face the world. ‘Kasturi’ became ‘Kastoori’ and I gathered confidence in life (I won’t say that it came with the spelling change, but my outlook did change along with it). Then it so happened that each time my name was called it was also to nominate me as the class prefect, or to show my neatly done classwork to others, or when friends asked me which games we should play. I developed an identity and it felt great to associate my name with that.

Kasturi is a substance that releases scent from the navel of Himalayan musk deer to attract females during mating season. The substance is widely used in perfumes, incense and as medicines. It may not mean much to you, and it did not to me either, until a random lady recited a couplet that Kabir Das wrote on it:

Kasturi kundal base, mrag dhundhat ban mahi
Jyo ghat ghat ram hai, duniya dekhe nahi

(The deer runs through the forest looking for the scent that comes within him. Similarly, people look for God everywhere but cannot see that God is within them)

Written in response to: Say Your Name

If stars slip

On my second day in the barren Spiti Valley I decided to scale a further 500 metres and sleep at a monastery (Ki Gompa). I don’t exactly know what prompted me to spend the night at a monastery up in the mountain with hundreds of monks on the other side of a flimsy wooden door. Oh I know why. Because, I didn’t have a plan.

After a brief interaction with the monks and dinner in their ancient soot smeared kitchen, dusk quickly transformed into night and all noise died down. This is the time when one feels truly alone and uncomfortable. I couldn’t fall asleep at 8 pm yet, and decided to step out into the courtyard. And I stood stunned.

I had never seen so many stars in one uninterrupted sky. Thousands of them shimmered against a pitch-dark background. It is surreal how different the world looks at a height of 4165 meters above sea level. The sky could be touched with one big leap; and the star-studded ceiling could fall off at any moment. You gaze so much you begin to hallucinate that the sky is communicating with you and trying to unite you with them. If wasn’t for the chill in the air I’d have thought I was a star myself.

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The night sky over Ki Gompa in Spiti Valley (photo sourced from https://500px.com)

Big twinkles, small flickers, starbursts, constellations and the Milky Way! The next line will make me an idiot but – I had no idea that the Milky Way was real. But it is, and I saw it stretched across the sky like a stairway to heaven. They say it is made up of tiny indistinguishable stars but for me it is a fairy’s wand filled with stardust.

The vastness around and above me diminished me into a speck of dust; someone who may be let into the living room but may not touch anything. It could be that we transform diamonds back into coal with our mortal hands. But you don’t mind because in that brief spell of time all you feel is thankful.

Back in my room sleep eluded me and the only flickering bulb was giving up. The wind breathed up and down the monastery walls. I held my breath and curled my toes. The quiet was deafening. In the end when the light went completely off I feverishly began counting my numbers backwards.

Outside a million stars slipped and came down as snowflakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crooked smile

The usual 9 am cacophony loud enough to submerge one’s thoughts rose from all corners of the city.

Scooters blared their broken rhythm as it drove by, an urchin showed his hula-hoop stunts, the lemonade man lured in customers with a voice that was rented, buses stopped suddenly and honked away scaring pedestrians, scratched bright cars were forced to rub shoulders with slow moving rickshaws; the birds were chirping maybe, but who would notice.

He stood there waiting for his cab to work, taking in the madness of the world that is always in a rush, always late, always selling, always swearing, and always talking. He lit his cigarette, licked his cracked lips, and couldn’t decide exactly when he should quit smoking.

Then he saw them. Across the street, on the other side of the swirling dust, standing at the bus stand were a pair of eyes that immediately placed him under the gushing Liril ad waterfall. A very visible tingle.

They tore off the gaze and he thought how silly this was. But he looked up again and found them staring right at him.

You know how sometimes you get a sudden hope? Everything around melts into nothingness and you start feeling light too? And some part of your brain tells you that this might be the person who will discover a hidden city in the woods with you? Well, this was that for him and more.

He took a slow drag of his half burnt cigarette and his dream adventure partner fidgeted with his fingers.

Occasionally a loud bus would obstruct them and they’d feel embarrassed and try to understand. They couldn’t deny the butterflies that were trying to escape their mouths.

Finally, he smiled and he returned an awkward one.

Another bus came. The cigarette burnt down to its filter and when he looked again he was gone. He departed with one of the many buses that were destined for one of the many streets, to melt into the crowd, to escape into one of the many matchbox sized houses. The city of noise swallowed away the one with the most beautiful crooked smile.

The humdrum came back the way bubbles rise up in a vessel of water on fire. Slowly and then urgently.

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Image via internet