Category Archives: Love

Spoken Word 3: A Man of Few Words.

To my man-of-few-words,

Im sorry I disappeared on you, for the second time. This letter isn’t about trying to reconcile, I’ve been writing away the seconds while trying to put together these lessons I, have learnt from you. To start, I can’t thank you for all that you’ve given me. I know we’ve been apart, but I write assuming you still have the same heart, so I can at least hope that you’ve forgiven me.

I wanted to tell you that you’re in my thoughts and just in case you believe that I forgot, I haven’t, not even in a slight way. I hope I find you exactly as I left you, lazing in the sun out by my driveway; remember that’s where we first met on that slight curb? I was walking home from school, and I found you lying in a pool of your own bright blood; battered and bruised like you’d starred in a dog’s remake of Fight Club.

The first few moments, we literally had a Mexican stand-off. I took a few steps to bandage your wounds and you almost snapped my hand off with a rough bite. So much for love at first sight, with that aggression. But thank you for teaching me that love is rarely about first impressions, that there’s always so much more to discover to a person than your worst perceptions. I live my life by that lesson today.

Remember our late night conversations, at odd hours? Of 16-year-old quips, relationships gone sour and all the pain? I poured my heart out into your glass over and over again and you downed it all without a complaint, even though my words required significant strain from you to know them. I remember when I needed an audience for my first ever poem, I turned to you; I know you didn’t understand shit but you listened like it meant the world to you. I mean, you didn’t have to care, right? You could have chased squirrels, licked your own butt, or whatever it is that dogs do in their spare time. But I guess the quiver in my voice told you what it meant to me. Now that it occurs to me; it is so easy to fall in love with a person who yearns to listen, without waiting for their turn to speak. The world needs more like you. But they don’t make any more like you.

You know what else hurts me too? You know so much about me and I know so little about you. I never asked if you craved attention which is pure and undivided. Never asked if you dated any bitches too, just like I did. Never knew about the incitement behind those facial scars. Never asked about the excitement within your playful barks. Never asked if your favorite song was Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars, I just assumed you’d like it because the title sounded like an amazing part. So I sang it whenever we sat in the dark, lying on our backs and gazing at the stars.

The first time I had to say goodbye, I let you in for the night at the risk of being roasted alive by my parents. I tried to tell you what was apparent; why I was going to be a ghost for a while because my father was posted, so I’d spend most of my time setting house in a new area. How could I explain that all this was going to get progressively scarier and that distance turns the most balanced of us into obscure, edgy variants? How could I tell you that the family coming in our place, were pure vegetarians?

I was away for three long months, and then I came back just for two days. And as soon as I stepped near my old house and unlatched those two gates, it was like falling in love with your cute face all over again. If you were a person, your insults wouldn’t have been misplaced. You could’ve picked a bone with me and called me a disgrace, for abandoning and leaving you all alone in this place, but here you were, whimpering and jumping in our makeshift embrace, that familiar frame still full of so warmth. Tail wagging like a windmill caught in the midst of a shit storm. How could you forgive this easily? I wouldn’t have forgiven me.

In the next two days, you didn’t leave me alone, right from the moment I entered my guest room. Even stood outside my door when I went to use the rest room so I couldn’t escape your sight. Remember I was invited to an Air Force party the same night? So here I was, dressed up in formals, with a stray dog by my side, (perfectly normal); trying to tell you that legions of people would riddle us like a task force and you shouldn’t give them reasons to fiddle or to ask more. Five minutes into the party, and I heard someone scream “what’s a dog doing in the middle of the dance floor??”

That is a night I won’t ever need to get over. I spent our last evening handfeeding you other people’s leftovers but there’s nowhere else I would have rather been to pass time. I’m sorry I didn’t have the strength to say goodbye for the second and the last time, going by the past I, wouldn’t have taken it without weeping myself sore. My friends wrote me messages about how sometimes they saw you sleeping outside my door. It’s been nine years now, and I’ve written about you so many times but I have no one to tell me if you’re dead or alive. But if you are, I hope you know I miss you too. I don’t how good dogs are with YouTube but if you ever log on I hope you’ll find this, and see how a man of few words taught a little kid, a whole new language.

 

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What Japanese Women Taught Me About Love.

When the cold and pristine winter air first kissed my face as I got off the plane at Narita Airport, Japan, I opened my mind to a world full of infinite discoveries. I’ll be honest, there are certain concepts and elements I am yet to fully grasp as a writer; Love is one of them. I was hoping Japan would help me understand it a little better.

On the 8th day of my Japan expedition, a tiny house in one corner of Saiki Bay made a few revelations. I finally fell in love again, and I’m pretty sure I understand it a little better. So here’s what Japanese women taught me about love.

Who are you really? (Himino-chan, age 6)

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– Every relationship starts with a conversation, if not, at least with a feeble attempt at one. However, from time to time you’ll come across a woman who speaks a different language. She probably won’t share your obsession of sipping freshly ground coffee from your favourite mug. Maybe she swears by the subtleties of white chocolate while you choose the intoxicating allures of bitter dark ones; it doesn’t matter. Words are lost in translation, emotions are not. Deciphering her tongue takes exhaustive efforts; she’s met many who speak the same language but still never really understood her. She could speak Japanese for all I care; but does that mask the honesty inside her every time she starts to speak?

– Learn to intrigue every little part of her imagination to the point where it bursts at the seams. Don’t do the same magic trick over and over. You might have the upper hand now, but someday she will learn to play her cards better, or worse, learn to read yours. Be unpredictable. Don’t pull out a rabbit from your hat, pull out a cat; maybe it’ll claw at your fingers and embarrass you completely but your misery will be worth her laugh. The day magic stands still, the world will think it’s a trick; for it to remain a beautiful illusion it must be rethought, reconsidered and reinvented for what it is.

– Learn to forget yourself around her. You’re not 22. You aren’t someone who has seen more or less of the world than she has. You’re never too mature or too naive. So every time she tries to discover you, learn to blur your lines. For you to win her over, you must make yourself vulnerable to her first. Remember, no conquests were made from staying under defensive cover.

– Make a conscious effort to give her choices a chance. Don’t you already know most of what you love and prefer? Maybe it’s time for you to indulge in things that have always differed from what you’ve loved. Maybe she thinks fish tastes better fried than when it’s poached. Maybe she thinks an accompaniment of seaweed is more digestible than a helping of sautéed onions. It never hurts to try the things she loves. After all, you’re one of those things, aren’t you?

The things I never say (Tsubaki Chan, age 3)

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– When she looks at you for the first time, do not mistake her quiet, piercing gaze for aggression. Some women measure your worth before they grant you the privilege of a conversation.

– When she finally acknowledges that you exist, make every little gesture to tell her that you care what she talks about who she is. If she’s 3 feet tall and you’re 5’7, don’t let her crane her neck when she speaks. Don’t be distant. Don’t be out of reach. Instead, go down to your knees and look into her eyes when she talks. Her voice will be warm. Her smile will be warmer. You can tell by the tinge of pink that spreads itself across her rosy cheeks.

– When she pulls you by your hand (or even wraps three-year-old fingers around your solitary index finger), don’t stop to question her intentions. Let her lead you wherever she pleases. Live the quivering excitement in her voice with her, watch her eyes grow wide in anticipation when she opens the surprises she keeps giftwrapped inside her mind. She wants you to be a part of her wonderment, her emotions, her universe. Why would you even refuse?

– One day, she’ll let out slivers of thoughts you won’t be able to grasp. She’ll say words with a weight you cannot comprehend, or maybe she’ll just sit across you and break down into quite sobs from beginning to end. At times like these, let her know that you’re listening and hanging onto every thing she spills. A gentle nod, a reassuring nudge, an encouraging word; little gestures to remind her that everything she said is heard. She could speak in rapid Japanese for all you know; in the end, what you sense matters more than what you take in.

– When it is time to say goodbye, give her something to remember you by. Embrace her, leave her with a little kiss; like you want the warmth on your finger tips and your skin to fill her empty depths with happiness. When people leave, all that is left is memories; so give her one that she can go back to time and over. Be the book she never gets bored of reading, be the song she replays in her head when she’s breathing in emptiness; when she needs something to remind of reasons to keep existing. That way, if you find yourself living a day when you have to leave without knowing when you’ll return, at least you’ll say good bye knowing you did everything to be a part of something she’ll cherish all her life. She’ll grow old, she’ll grow up with them; one day when she gets to where she wants, she will remember you.


Empty.

I do this once, maybe twice a year, and it makes it all the more difficult to write this. I hold on to 364 days worth of memories and regrets, only to struggle with myself on your birthday. On the first of October every year, I take something from the empty space inside and try my best to cram it into an empty one outside. There are just too many memories to choose from, ones I recall like it were only yesterday.

Yes, I remember putting a hand on my zip and dancing like a second-hand Michael Jackson for you when you were on your wheelchair. I also remember how you spilled filter coffee on a pristine white bed-sheet of your hospital bed, and the nurse gave you a look like you had murdered her family or something. I still remember laughing until my eyes watered.

I also remember not-so-happy things; fighting with you and telling you I wouldn’t talk to you until you ate, didn’t matter if the cancer made you nauseous. I remember carrying you to the bathroom in the middle of the night as you winced in pain. Things that I try not to think of, but still a part of the limited time we spent and loved together.

So today, as I write this, everything just comes flooding back. It happens everyday, but just that little bit more today. Happens when we cut your birthday cake without you; it happens when we eat a dinner dedicated to you with one empty chair at the table. But it also reminds me how lucky I have been, and how much I’ve learnt and continue to learn from you. It also keeps my feet on the ground; the standards you’ve set for perfection are so far and distant that it drives me on even more to keep your legacy alive. You live through me and I know I might never get there, but I promise to try and show the world who you really were.

I love you, you beautiful, beautiful person. I miss sitting on your bed, staring into the same eyes you gave me and talking to you.
Happy birthday, I miss you. Thank you for everything I am today.


How I Found Home Again.

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I had never felt so uncomfortable in a place that I had come to call my second home. The small, muddy ground with two rusty goalposts at each end had always been reassuringly familiar to me; but not on that one night. Over the past year, I had covered every inch of the ground more than a thousand times; right from the first day of college to the last day of the university team trials. I loved the ground so much that my once gleaming, white Star Impact Spectras were now permanently coated with a dull brown tinge that so often ended up on my shirts after rough falls. My legs had almost memorized the physical attributes of the turf; how the far left corner was slightly elevated and how a little patch halfway up the ground was particularly hard to sprint on. I can embarrassingly admit, I didn’t even know my girlfriend as intimately as I knew about the little, muddy pitch in the centre of my college.

When Mom’s cancer happened, I was forced to see two of my most cherished things in the world spiral towards unimaginable predicaments. With Mom’s steadily deteriorating health, I was slowly starting to spend more and more time away from the little field I used to practice in. I sorely missed what it once made me feel – the thrills of exquisitely timed sliding tackles, the earthy aroma of petrichor during rainy football sessions, the joys of the wind beating against my chest while sprinting; the sheer nostalgia of memories was overwhelming. Those poignant shards of a shattered imagination were now replaced with far graver memories.

On that night, I stood once again on the same ground after God knew how much time. The sound of gravel scrunching beneath my shoes felt like listening to a song that I had long forgotten, but one that I suddenly rediscovered on the radio. I could hear the crowd roaring and the bright floodlights illuminating the field radiantly, lending its brown colour an alluring, lustrous glow which I think it always deserved. I had been there so many times before; soaking in the pressure, the crippling expectations and the electric atmosphere. But that night was different. It was strange for me, this feeling. I had built my footballing reputation on being a calm central midfielder who feared little. But on that night, I felt nervous and uneasily anxious. The worst thing was that I was fully aware of why it was happening.

I didn’t look on my right-hand side because I knew she was watching me. I also knew she understood little about the game; had no clue about the intricate tactics, the industrious endeavor and the orchestrated teamwork it required to assert one team’s supremacy over the other. All I knew was that I would mean the same to her on the pitch as I did off it. She cared little about my team or the opposition’s, she was only going to watch me and be oblivious to the rest of the world. In 18 years of my life out of which I had spent 10 playing the beautiful game, this was the first time that she had come to watch me play. That night, I wanted to give her something to smile about after what had been a tumultuous few months for all of us.

I still remember how it felt the same way like my first match did. My legs felt like jelly, my stomach had turned so violently that it felt like someone had tied my guts into a scout’s knot. I couldn’t focus, I was sweating and the game hadn’t even begun. Trust me, there is nothing worse than sudden self-doubt on the big stage; that one moment when you completely forget your very purpose of existing. That horror of letting everything unravel when it matters to most was terrifying to me.

When I heard the whistle, it took me a few seconds to register that the game had kicked off. It was like the world had dropped its burdens on my shoulders, but I told myself that nothing mattered more to me than the lady who got up from a hospital bed after a chemotherapy to watch her son do what he loved. I wasn’t going to let her down, I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if I did. Failure was unacceptable on any night; but tonight it was simply unthinkable. I had no way of knowing if she would ever watch me play again, so I knew had to make this one performance count.

Over the course of the next 20 minutes, I played like a man possessed. I dived recklessly into tackles, ran twice as hard as the man I was supposed to mark, and constantly told myself that this was just another game. I don’t think my body was listening. By halftime I looked like I had taken a momentary dip in the college’s heritage well; my head was aching with the lack of composure that usually regulated my body’s physical output. It was then that I realized what my fear truly meant. And for the first time since the match started, I smiled.

I realized that I felt different because that night, I wasn’t playing for myself anymore. I was playing for someone else, someone far more important. None of the hundreds in the crowd had ever seen what it took me to become the footballer I was, but the lady smiling quietly at one dark corner of the field certainly had. She had seen me caked in mud and exhausted from training camps, she had seen me in hospitals with sprained ankles and torn muscles, she had seen me distraught after defeat. She had witnessed and understood the true aspects of my art and my worth as an artist, which is why on that night, the weight of expectations felt heavier than it ever did before.

Before the second half began, I went up to her and talked to her. My heart felt lighter knowing that today, all I had to do to make her proud was just to be myself. Just like how I was the centre of her universe, she was all that mattered tonight and nothing else came remotely close. Win, draw or lose, it didn’t matter anymore; just knowing that she was watching me was all I could be grateful for.

I played the rest of the game with a heart that knew, for the first time that night, just what it had to do. I ran my socks off in the second half and also scored a goal that I still regard as the best of my life, considering who I owed it to. We drew the game 2-2, but the disappointment of the draw didn’t wipe the smile off my face for the whole night. The ground felt familiar once more, and I smiled again. She looked at me, she smiled too; and in that moment, I found my home again.

Spoken Poetry #1 – Dear Mom.

It completely slipped my mind that I should probably put my first Spoken Poetry performance here. I loved every second of that experience; being on stage, taking something so immensely personal and getting the audience to live it with me. So here it is, a letter to someone I miss every single day. Dear Mom, this one is for you.


Why I don’t fall in love.

I have been asked this one question that always tends to touch a nerve.”Shamir, tell me one thing, don’t you ever fall in love?” I think I’ve spent so much time wondering that I’ve repeatedly hit the end of my wits. But I think I’ve finally found a satisfactory answer, so here is something I came up with-
I remember when I was 17 years old, I took this girl to McDonald’s for my very first date. We’d been seeing each other for three months straight now, and everything was going better than great. She was 10 days older than I was, with skin that looked whitewashed with this unearthly glow. And if her skin was as white as milk, her hair was like fine strands of silk, which smelt of strawberries; it was weird because every time I put my head on her shoulders, I felt hungry.

Anyway, so I thought I’d take her out for a meal, spend a day telling her how exactly I feel; how having her around was a big deal for a guy who didn’t know the first thing about love. She spent a few hours looking into my eyes, and the rest with her face in Chicken McGrills and french fries, but yeah it felt kind of nice, knowing I could be this comfortable with someone. Just being around her made me numb, with a feeling I couldn’t put my finger on, but that emotion would quietly linger on putting a smile on my face that made me look dumb. For the first time, I had let someone into my personal space, and she waltzed in with such grace, that I was stunned.

Anyway, right after she’d had her fill, we walked to the counter to pay the bill. Now see, this is the part that made me wary; because the numbers printed by the little machine were scary for someone who never liked spending too much. I was cautious, being a miser is what you would call it, but it was simple self-defence for a guy with more dust than money inside his wallet. As I reached for the paper, I could feel my palms start to sweat, my throat go dry and my forehead drenched, and wet. She smiled, and I smiled back, in regret.

I think my love blinded me to how she hogged one burger after another. 700 rupees? I was convinced I was dating Godzilla’s mother. I kept staring at the white piece of paper and what was in it, losing my composure with it, growing paler by the minute. She tugged my shirt and asked “Is everything okay baby? (Like if I said no, it was going to make a difference maybe.)
But eventually I thought I could make a few exceptions; after all, wasn’t love all about learning to live with imperfections?

That episode though, became something in the distant past. Fate turned; crashed and burned, and things disintegrated so fast, they just couldn’t last till the very end. First my money ran out, then she ran out, with my best friend. To the fickle concept of love, I said, never again.

Two years later, a blank slate. I found myself in the midst of another date. I’d known this one for 19 years now, in fact right from the very beginning of my days. I stood on a white tiled floor, and she on a hospital bed, in a half paralyzed state. We’d been here several times straight now, and things were anything but great. She was 24 years ahead of my age, but with a beauty that even today, leaves me in a daze. Her skin had creases and had started to sag, her face looked like it had been dragged through six weeks of jet lag, but that smile, oh that smile, was the best thing anyone could ever have.

For an hour we gazed at each other in quiet silence, for the rest I looked at scars left by the violence of the chemotherapies on her skin. Cuts and bruises uninhibited, for a sin my mother never committed. Just looking at her made my heart sink; it was like someone added one part ink to two parts milk. It hurt how a faint impurity could taint the very essence of beauty.

At that moment, one of the doctors I’d seen around walked in. You see, this is the part that made me wary, because the words printed on the paper in his hand were scary to someone who wanted to see her recover. I got up and stepped outside the door, to a suffocating corridor on the second floor. I walked up to the benches arranged in a long line; my mind preoccupied with how she was doing with a chemotherapy needle slowly piercing her spine. Was she crying? Was she fine? I could never tell. Those few moments are the closest I’ve ever come to dying.

During those terrible moments, I was grateful for certain things, like a significantly advanced science stream and a soundproof door to muffle the screams of an angel losing her wings. Ironic why they called the room intensive care.

I think my love blinded me to the predicament we were in. We were breathing the same air, but only one of us was living a sin. I took her out of the ICU in her wheelchair, pushing no faster than what her back could bear. “Is everything alright Mom?” I asked her, with a petrified stare. I dread asking, or being asked this question, even today.

So when people ask me, Shamir, why don’t you fall in love, I give them this one explanation first. I do fall in love but the definition of the word itself is something I’ve never been able to infer. I’ve felt good love at a bad time, bad love at a good time, I just don’t know which one it is that I prefer. Maybe I fear that both parts of love are a paradox I won’t be able to break or bend, or maybe the women I’ve loved will inevitably leave me in the end. I know what I have lost and how much I miss them. Which is why the question of love doesn’t touch a nerve, it wrecks my entire nervous system.

But what I realize, is that I fear not love, but possibilities. I wrap myself in insecurity, but I still admire the sanctity and the purity of what love tends to bring. Maybe I’ll find love hogging over french fries and onion rings, maybe I’ll find it frozen in the midst of chronic cycles of suffering. I don’t know, I can’t read fate; but if love is anything like what I’ve had to take, I think I prefer to wait.