My Nights, His Sleep

A view, from the other side of the valley.

See Also: To Her Ravaging Memoirs

It’s three in the morning. I stare at the ceiling, gazing at the dark nothingness, perfectly awake. Sleep had not bothered to knock on my doorstep, or rather, it was kept at bay by nothing significant.

If only I could believe what I just said.

Not the fact that I was wide awake, but my meek attempt to pass him off as insignificant. His significance is something I never could define, but somehow always felt reliant on. He wasn’t vocally and visibly important, but he was essential when it was dark and quiet. He was the Batman to my other Harvey Dents.

That analogy jolts me up, and I decide there and then; that you must know this. You must know about the Batman who made me his Gotham, and who’d have loved seeing me make these analogies.

He was an unusual fellow. He brooded into the nights and acted during the day; slow and cautious, but firm. He was ostensibly arrogant, they said, but a certain unrelenting confidence backed up by reasoning is often taken as arrogance by the rash and intuitive. And we happened to cross paths by chance, literally. Two frenzied readers, imaginative people who imagined nothing less than the chance of love with an dose of occasional love by chance; bumping into each other at the romance section of a book fair. He seemed to be a devout reader, geeky round glasses and unkempt hair and beard, with a carefree feel of carelessness around his actions. He picked up books quickly and put them down even more quickly, as if he could scan the chapters in the flick of an eye. Until, of course, he found that one book that catered to his needs, and started reading it at the stall, right there and then; only to be reprimanded by the seller to either buy it and leave or keep browsing. He was so engrossed in reading that the curt rebuke startled him, and a giggle escaped my mouth before I knew it. He turned, and realised that he was being watched, turned beet red and smiled sheepishly. He hastily grabbed the book, and carried it to the cashier, expertly hiding the title from view.

Ah, the joys of catching boys enjoying their unadmitted pleasures!

The roll of the dice showed six, and we ended up meeting each other five more times in the same fair, until I decided to shatter the ice. A coffee treat wasn’t very tempting for him, but tea softened his stance. Tea made him slip out details. His restless demeanor terminated at his eyes, still like an icy lake in mid winter. Yet, there was a fire behind the ice, which could either melt him or burn me. And I decided to poke the fire.

He could write as he could read – heavily and excellently. His writings made me think of the things he had gone through, the fears he had overcome and the scars that shone on his soul. The way he trapped his emotions into words and laid out a maze for you to get lost in, you almost didn’t want to come out of it. Looking back at the things he wrote reminds me about this piece of wisdom, when he so nonchalantly uttered, “Looking back is always difficult because there’s hindsight, and hindsight is the mother of nostalgia, and the grandmother of regret.” I could almost hear him say things he wrote. The strength he portrayed, the inspiration he shared and the creativity he spilled made me wonder what was hidden beneath his ungodly untidy hair.

Whatever he was, he was not just that. He had that one extra thing which drew your attention, yet he did incredibly well to stick to himself. He felt alone, torn between the choice of solitude and mingling. He was bold, opinionated and could use those opinions to barge through the mind of his opponents. Yet, there was a mildness, a type of kindness and sensitivity that surprised many, probably even himself. He thought of it as a vulnerability, given the pain it had given him. And I failed to convince him it was his real strength.

He was not many people’s idea of companionship. We often talk about the seldom used, not the sharpest tool in the shed, but he was the tool sharper than others; kept aside because there wasn’t a worker skilled enough for him. The brightest crayon in the box, seldom used because there wasn’t a tapestry dark enough for him, and he had convinced himself that he’d only be useful if things were ‘dark’. People would ask him for aid, and he would provide it and be off, away, to find other shades of darkness to kill. He was the friend they deserved, but was never the one they needed often, so they forgot him. Because he could take it, because he was a hero. He was a support in the shadows, a thankless soldier. The “Dark Knight” in the darkest of your nights.

He did a lot for me, and never waited for my thanks. It was then when I understood how unerringly evil his habit was, to not wait for gratitude. Gratitude is not properly understood. It is not something to be passed off as nothing. And the biggest wrong doers are people and deeds that don’t accept gratitude, for they demand indebtedness in return. The debt I took from him was immense, and I have no idea how to repay it.

It provides the greatest satisfaction to please the difficult to please, to extract love from the difficult to love, and to understand those difficult to understand. Such was he, but you could be sure that when he loved, he loved deep. A drop of his love was so pure, that it would pierce through tonnes of hate. Such kind of love that feels like the burn from cold ice. Love, that can only be met with fires that cool, maybe.

He taught me to fight. He told me to stand up for what I believe in. He convinced me that respect is earned, not demanded. He made me not let things go, taught that I shouldn’t have to lower my gaze for someone to take pride in their unabashedness. He saw things in me I didn’t, even if he refused to show them to me directly. He forced me to dig into myself, think, and understand what I was all about. And by the time I realised who I was.. he was gone.

How I wish I could talk to him once more. Oh, if only once!

What wouldn’t I give for him to scratch his ear again when I confuse him and make him think! What wouldn’t I give to see him run his hands through his hair every fifteen minutes! What wouldn’t I give to feel his beard again!

How I wish I could hear him say again, “Fine! You’re right!” when he doesn’t want to argue anymore. I would walk to hell and back for him to make DC and Marvel jokes again, and tell him that I now understand them. How much do I want him to come and show me again, to tell me where I am wrong. How much do I want him to validate what I think, to run through what I plan. How much do I want him to ruin me once more, and break me into a thousand pieces from the hundred that I am, so that I can allow him to see more of me than anybody has ever before.

So there you are. Dawn is up, and I hope the shower will run him off my mind once again like it does to a lot of things.

But I know he will always be significant to me. Significant enough to think about him for nights and nights. They remain my nights, but my sleep is his.


To Us, Who Couldn’t Be

A certain feeling of the writing being on the wall and me being unable to notice it hung around my neck like a noose gradually being tightened, a noose which wouldn’t kill me but would stop tightening at just the moment of extreme discomfort and breathlessness.

Who Couldn’t Be.

There are little things in life that justify being quaint, particularly in this racing world. Yet, there still remains room for a good, old fashioned letter, particularly in circumstances like this; where none of us know what to say but have a lot to convey. I don’t hope to speak for you, and while I can only talk about me, I do think you are not very far off from what I have to say, so it eventually borders onto ‘us’.

What we were is not what we are, that is clear. To be fair, our versions of what we ‘were’ don’t match anymore, and I am surprised we managed to spend what time we could in the way we could.

Things went wrong. They went wrong in a manner I had epitomes of nostalgia associated with. I tried to say, there were times when I could be absolutely sure what your next line would be, and what your response would be. Not because I know you that well, that’s never a possibility in months of internet chats, but because our conversation had reached a point where in I had a constant case of Déjà vu, at almost every word, sentence and paragraph.

The déjà vu was as powerful as any. They brought back a notion of, ‘here we go again’; and ‘I should have seen this coming’. A certain feeling of the writing being on the wall and me being unable to notice it hung around my neck like a noose gradually being tightened, a noose which wouldn’t kill me but would stop tightening at just the moment of extreme discomfort and breathlessness. And unfortunately, the marks of my previous escape from the noose were still a little raw.

There were things I couldn’t explain, there were things you wouldn’t understand, and there were many things you thought you understood but you didn’t. And I don’t blame you for it. I, for instance, am no one to go around blaming people. Things you couldn’t understand were things I hope you never understand, because to understand them you need a certain experience to empathize, and I wish you never have those experiences. Then again, you having dealt with someone living with the repercussions of those experiences may have given you a certain curiosity, but please don’t go about being Pandora who can’t resist the temptation. Coming back to the things you wouldn’t understand, again, it is not because you didn’t have the ability to understand, but because you didn’t have the will to accept them in their crudeness. You saw beauty in ruggedness and good things in bad, which I admire, but were just not that. It is in these differences of experiences and understanding that a chasm opened up, and since I knew how wide it can be and futile it would be to try and jump across, I decided that it would be wise to say it quits. It wasn’t the most morally upright decision, but it was one which kept both – you and me – safe. May be you do not get how this keeps you safe, but just by keeping you from jumping I hope I prevent you from burning into the fires beneath.

I appreciate what you’ve done, what you’ve said and what you’ve sent. I have never been a good receiver, either of good things or bad, so I just accept things with a customary thank you for everything. Since you had refuted the ‘thank yous’ I sent, I had no idea how to respond – for once I was out of words. I then decided to continue the conversation at my own peril, lack of sleep and discomfort. I appreciate the counseling, the praises and the credits.

In time, I hope you accept and respect my decision. It may feel that I wronged you immensely, and it may as well be true from where you’re stationed, but just remember, if I did not leave the string we held I would drag you into a quagmire of stuff you don’t deserve to be in.

In any case, if you need me desperately, I’ll be there. And I will remember you.

Thanking and wishing you well;

Ek Khoj (Poem)

किसीसे मन की बात कहकर भी;
तन्हाई का इक इक पल सताता है|
भीड़ के बीच रहकर भी;
मुझे अकेला रहना आता है|

रहता है वो किसमे, कैसे, कहाँ;
कौन जाने प्यार कहाँ बस्ता है?
क्या अकेलेपन से भरे जहाँ मे;
वो लूका छिप्पि खेल कर हस्ता है?

ढूंढता हूँ उसे हर जगह;
जला धूप मैं, देखे हर साए|
ना जान पाया मई वो वजह;
क्यू वह मुझे ऐसे सताए|

मिला वो कहीं पल दो पल;
पूछना चाहा उसे सवाल कहीं|
जवाब मिले कोई, मिले कुछ हल,
पर खोज मेरी रही वहीं के वहीं|

जो लफ्ज़ उसने कहे;
वह सिर्फ़ मुझे घाव दे गये|
जो लफ्ज़ उसने ना कहे;
वह मेरी जान ले गये!

– Funadrius