There is that nip in the air. Slightly pleasant, almost a relief. If you are happy.
When you are indifferent, apathetic, it’s like the chill has entered your soul. Nothing hurts anymore. There is no feeling. Just a numbness. And then you read a Murakami because you know something about his writing will get to you, make you feel again — not like the way reading Eliot or Eugene O’ Neill or Tennessee Williams or listening to Joan Baez would — no, not that feeling too much again. It’s a relief not to be there, feeling too much, writing poetry that drips with pain, doing that drama in your own head, going slightly mad, getting a little hysterical, and feeling that awful emotion – desperation. No.
This is normal. It helps you get through the day, each day one less pill. It helps you work. Like normal. It makes you laugh when you see funny things or hear absurd stories. Things can still excite you. Like a mail from students you are fond of. It helps you entertain guests and be courteous to staff. This is normal. This is angst without the agonizing. This is quiet. Like the Bangalore air that just drops its heat and enters your joints. No noise. No sense of too much disquiet. Just a slight sensation. You protest the calm in strange ways – eat sweets, eat more sweets when you are craving salty chips. Have chocolate. Smoke because it is expected and necessary. How else will you exhale all that cold air that is stiffening in your chest?
And life, like always, it goes on.
And then because of the Murakami, you realise how easy it is to end it. It’s in your hands. You can choose it. And just that power is enough. Shiva is within you. All of us are mere dead bodies. So you don’t do that. Because it’s so obvious. Because they say you need help — “At least try it. A new counsellor might help.” And you know they cannot. Not because they don’t know how to. Not even because you think you cannot be helped. But because you know there are only two people who can really help you. He can by just being there and doing all that he said he would. And if he won’t, then you can. By being calm and waiting for the penny to drop. And that’s that. So you don’t kill yourself. If you did that, you’d prove them right. So you don’t. You stay quiet and wait and watch. And in twilight, the air shifts, lifts, settles. Chills.
So you get dressed, spray the new perfume a woman you love has gifted you, go out with that girl who is family now and attend of all things, an art exhibition. You see those painstakingly drawn figures that are beyond obese, using just a ball-point pen and you have a discussion with the artist about Shantiniketan — you don’t know anything about it — and Freud — the artist doesn’t know anything about Freud — and surrealism — the artist and you give each other a definition of what surreal is and everyone listens or pretends to.
Then suddenly you see the charcoal. You lust after a nude with pointed breasts and such deeply protruding nipples that there, just then, you want to be able to suck those tits. The mangalsutra in charcoal hangs tantalizingly low. And you are aroused. By a woman. By a charcoal print. And this after you’ve discussed how it’s so difficult to sleep with a woman because God that entails going down on her. And that just doesn’t feel right or good. And you have that discussion because you see hoardings of 18 Again all along the road – the world wants your vagina to be tighter, firmer, like when you were younger. Winter was different in Bangalore when you were 18. It had the taste of whiskey and chicken shawarma rolls from Empire. There was a lot of space in Bangalore then, more breathing room. Movement but also stillness. A stillness characteristic to winter. It was possible to meditate on life and think about books on the way back home without getting angry at the traffic jam. So much space, it’s all disappeared in the smog now.
Then you laugh because O God, where will you put that painting? There is no wall. She says, “The bathroom, think about how you can imagine those are your breasts.” And you think about your own breasts that will hang everywhere, maybe down to your ankles, if America didn’t make the bras for it.
And then you meet a possible client from Dubai who talks about her book, her world, and everything else with such confidence you are sure she will publish and become famous because she doesn’t care. She doesn’t care about punctuation, about painstakingly choosing the right phrase, saying something original, or doing nothing at all but teaching other writers who might do all that; because, that’s not what it is about. For her, it’s about getting published; so she will. While you will agonize about em-dashes and en-dashes and how you actually hate colons — pun unintended. And how you cannot read unless it is literature. Unless it is poignant or clever or both. Unless it can move you. Unless it can make you feel suicide is powerful. So you hear her story, refuse to take her on and help her with her book, pay the bill, have a chat with the barman who makes you the perfect whiskey amaretto and who knows Tulu because you can do those things.
She leaves and the two of you giggle and get scared about the future because nothing threatens anyone more than confident mediocrity, especially when your life quest is for meaning. You realise it’s all so absurd and meaningless and the Japanese have it right with the whole suicide shit and then laugh again because with Japanese food, really, what can one expect. And then you remember you had Thai food. To heat the body. To fill you with warmth. And it’s yummy, not bad at all. But it’s not Indian food. It’s not comfort. It’s not familiar. So you wonder if familiar is what is important. Is that why… It’s a deep thought but then she says, “Throw yourself out there, get out of your comfort zone, start dating people.” And you ask, “Why? What’s the hurry?” And that’s true. There is no hurry. The breeze is gentle. Cold. But gentle.
You laugh your way to Koramangala. You speak sagely about how every relationship is abusive but it’s fine as long as there is love. She argues passionately but then she repeats what you said and she says she is enlightened. You cite examples from mythology. Hera and Zeus, Shiva and Parvathi — really, he was a God and the best he could do for his wife’s child is get an elephant head? Really? So you discuss love lives and astrology. About how your uncle predicted you will settle in the US. And that’s enough to make both of you suicidal so instead you decide to get surreal. You get more absurd and go to a mall at 10 pm, enter a gift shop and help choose tacky gifts and cheesy cards and meet someone new and laugh. All the while, the wind blows a message. Quiet. Subtle. Chilling. It numbs your body while earlier it was only the mind.
You come home and you cannot sleep and you wonder whether the bird flew away — that bird in Indiranagar that drove you nuts, was it an owl? What was it? It never stopped. It kept saying, ‘puduk, puduk, puduk’ through the evening and the night and the morning. This, when you had a migraine. And the boys laughed when you said that’s what it did, because puduk is penis in Tamil and then you said, “Well, is that what the stupid bird wanted then? What is it? I want to kill it and cook it and feed it to the dogs because I hate it so much.” And then you forgot about it. But today, when it’s cold, you wonder about that bird and wonder if it’s feeling too cold and if it’s even alive. Has it flown away? And then you realise it’s the wind, the chill. And it’s reading Norwegian Wood again and how the song is also playing in your head somehow. Tan-tan-tan-tan-tan-tan-tan. Like that. And so you cannot sleep. So you decide you will document this delicious cold calm that you have suddenly been blessed with. And hope the bird has really flown away.