Cities change. That familiar landmark next to the empty lot doesn’t look the same anymore now that the empty lot is a seven storied building. That’s what strikes me on Instagram.
My city has changed. It’s no longer familiar. While I have been living, ekeing out my existence teaching, puffing up with self-importance when I ‘Like’ a comment on a post on the Modi government on Facebook, things have moved on, changed. Entire buildings have been built. The sky has turned blue, then grey, and then a pregnant red at night portending rain, while I have idled days away watching American dark comedy, watching Transparent.
At the restaurant, I suddenly catch myself in a mirror and start because I look familiar but also like a stranger. Who is that woman?
My hair greys out at the edges of my face, but shines burgundy, and my skin ruddies with a smile and the heat. My body is thick, substantial, proud. I pride myself on being self-aware but now I am constantly startled by how little I have changed in love, in anger, in friendship. So that woman in the mirror I glimpsed so startlingly cannot be me. She looks self-possessed, bored, self-important, and indifferent even when she smiles.
Everyday, I scrub at memories so I can erase a bit of the people who have left, so I can reassure myself I don’t hurt anymore, so I can reclaim myself. It’s like moulting. Everyday. It’s painful. Everyday. But the woman in the mirror looks like she has it all figured out. That woman looks like she would dismiss pain like a fallen eye-lash hair. Hardly caring about anything.
The city brims with people and stony faces. I dream of crisp weather and faces that care. But I myself don’t care anymore. People are tiring and tiresome and no one is more so than me. For someone with deep sated commitment phobia, I have lived too long with myself.
The city can’t go on for too long. There’s no water. Rain is a promise and a sludgy curse. The heat is intolerable in January we whine to each other but don’t know of any productive step that would bring the cool back to the city. The buildings kiss skies proclaiming progress in brittle, glassy confidence. Inside, people are dying a little each day. The dead walk amongst us smug, laughing, defeated, raging like mad on their car and bike honks on the streets. We choke and die anew in traffic.
A friend tells me China has foresight while Indians are riddled with religion. China focuses on the future, plans for decades from now in smog-filled cities that are all about urbanity and development. China dreams of world domination. We fight over what Rama wore to bed at night in newer, urbane accents. We dream totalitarian dreams, impressing no one with our vocabulary that labels everyone and everything in binaries.
Numbers are never odd. My tarot reader reads my cards and is appalled that I have no savings. Why is the future a preoccupation then? I reassure her that I am not worried about the future. I want to figure this now out. I want to figure out this strangeness with my own familiar skin. She chides me for not worrying about the future. But you must care about money she exclaims. She won’t take money from me. Money is inconsequential we both say at the same time. Unless you don’t have it, she warns.
I decide to educate myself in economics and see that entire countries are debt-ridden and states have over-drawn accounts.
Nothing gets done in this city. They announce tenders for laddoos for the Namma Metro inauguration. Everywhere, the streets team red and angry with the deluge of vehicles. The metro divides us like an orphan vein throbbing in self-importance, bursting varicose with the crowds even when it connects nothing with anything.
My head roars like rain on the asbestos sheets of the metro station, filling me with unnecessary insights on the cusp of another birthday.
- Bangalore is dying.
- This, right now, is all there is.
- You are already who you are.
- Families are full of people who are too familiar and unwilling to be surprised by each other.
- Heed Shakespeare. Moderation is the key.
- So even when you are burnt out in life, even when the city no longer speaks to you, even when your lovers belong to other people, be grateful.
- Anyone can fuck anybody and orientation is just buggering bullocks.
- Readiness is all.
- When your dreams die and your lost, unconceived baby dies, mourn quietly, in silence.
- Guard your privacy and your grief, even if there are willing ears and others’ fingertips to wipe your tears.
- Don’t make life about yourself.
- Don’t make a life for others.
- Don’t make. Life. It happens.
- Ageing is just old things looking different and new things becoming familiar.
- Ageing is change. Until it no longer is.