Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Today, for the third time, in two weeks, I conducted an unsuccessful search for "Ramya.K" on the placement notice board.That's a nice euphemism for rejection. While Shell took two weeks (while I was engaged in an enthusiastic preparation of a Goa itinerary) to figure out that my application wasn't worth a second glance, UOP actually got me calculating how long it would take them to despatch the offer letter.

IOCL, the intended saving grace, taken for granted for confident three years ("If nothing else, IOCL." ), scorned at, mocked, and yet secretly vulgarly desperately desired, finally had the last laugh. Denying me the luxury of rejecting a PSU career proffered on a platter must have been sweet revenge for that invisible traitor in my head who's been heard me rile all along.

Prolonged rant for missing out on a job I wanted solely for egoistic reasons. My dualite friends, either from naive empathy or detached saintliness have been resisting the urge to point out that my placement woes when narrated 26 times in various states of fatigue, sleepiness, through just-rejected-smses, oh-this-company-tomorrow-i'm-so-getting-the-job-and-chucking-it announcements sound err repetitive. Placement woes? I've been placed in a likable firm that I'd never intended to apply for. It's not my job status itself that bothers me, but the uncertainty, the bullying, the unfairness. What's been my undoing are my "But I've always...." thoughts. But I've always been the best. But I've always laughed at people who believe in luck. But I've always predicted my chance of success with accuracy and sense.

1. Is it overconfidence, thinking highly of yourself and constructing lofty ideas of your worth , because the world has always agreed with your standards while rewarding you?
2. Is it stupid to believe that you'll get everything you want just because you've always gotten everything you've wanted?
3. Is it arrogant to be justifiably cocksure and then dream big?And stare hungrily at what you might never possess, what might not be right for you? And spurn what you've already got?

I wish I knew.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Of thoughts and translations...

My uncertain mumbles drip all over our conversation, a leaky fountain pen over blotting paper. Not comprehending the thickly untidy words that I've scratched, frowns spread over his face as fast as those ink stains on my blotted consciousness. He looks at me impatiently before seizing my hand. Like a child being taught the script, my hand is enslaved within his larger steadier hand and we traverse the page together, my pen at his command. Straight parallel ruled lines, wide even margins, underlined sub-headings, small regular letter formations, cursive convent-school elegance. No trace of my exaggerated loops, my flatly rounded vowels, my undecipherable dots and crosses, my illegible scrawl. I don't thank him for the forgery and his eyebrows shoot up scornfully at my ingratitude.

I don't want my heart de-cluttered of its fears, the broken furniture of my judgment rearranged, my under-the-pillow secrets to be lifted, folded neatly and hung in glass-doored shelves and open showcases, the broken windowpanes of my perception replaced. And definitely not the way he intends to spring-clean my space. But he does exactly that. No wonder I approach confidences with the confident dread of being misunderstood. A confidence becomes an invitation to vacuum-clean my soul and suck it clean of the dust that my life has collected. Every cobweb sliver I lose is a mutilated memory, a betrayed love and a disinherited lesson.

I weave the gossamer of my sudden smiles and warped recollections, the association I make, the symbols I venerate, my inexplicable tears and intangible longings into a magic carpet that would transport him into my head. But he tears it apart it strand by strand into disparate threads of coherence, snips them into uniform lengths, stuffs them scientifically into separate postmarked envelopes and mails me through every conversational post-box we encounter on the way. "There you go.” he says. "This is what you should think." I want to fling those lying envelopes at his face, unopened.

When I speak to him, I'm instructed to pack my thoughts into batches of toilet paper-tightly rolled double-layers of gentle cellulose, unprotestingly adsorbent, evenly perforated sheets that are torn, soiled and thrown thoughtlessly back.

Outgrowing that hungry-eyed desperation to be understood is painful. Every intimacy is a tour of my self for the other person. But it’s not a guided tour. Nothing in my control. I want to show them around my world- its gates and walls, its pleasures and perils, its sights and sounds at my own pace. But they make their three-day package trips with their self-authored guidebooks for company. I want to walk them through my gardens and fall asleep together under boughs and vines to the songs of my night birds, but all they care for are neatly arranged preserved flowers and baskets of fruits to take back. I want to take them on walks along my beach and get them to paint my sunsets in their favourite shades. But they go on all-expense paid cruises along my coasts, never setting foot on shore, and carouse through the evenings, oblivious to my sunsets. I want to accompany them on star-lit treks throughout my forests, valleys and mountains, tell them about the landscape, the skies, the trees and the beasts that shape my existence. They visit zoos and throw crumbs for the caged beasts of my pretenses. I want them to be an insider to the stink of my drains, the seclusion of my deserts, the grime embracing my slums, the bumps on my dirt tracks, the costs of my living, the smog in my air and the poverties, glories, secrets and spaces of my life. But they return from their slapdash tour, smugly seat belted in the business-class illusion that they can claim to know me now. Completely.

I don't have to translate my thoughts into words, expressions, and sentences to make my mind see what my heart knows. I don't have to shake my mind by the shoulders and cry out unhappily "But you don't get it. I feel this way. There is no explanation. No reason." Obviously I'm no tourist to my self.

Why do thoughts need to be expressed at all? Some thoughts are serene jetsam. They are happy being the ocean currents of my mind, treading the same paths, caressing the continents of sleep and rest, floating joyfully among the unconscious seas of my mind, dictating the cyclones and monsoons of my moods, eternally alive yet unexpressed. Some thoughts drown and disappear into the whirlpools of forgetfulness without resistance while some dematerialize in the salty spray of growing up and learning.

Some embark on a quest of expression, holding on to the flimsy logs of feeling, oar-less and wordless but not sensation-less.
The course that a conversation takes can either maroon them in tongue-tying islands or provide sea-faring winds for a safe and quick passage. Bias unleashes gales, the storm of contempt punctures leaks and upends the raft, icebergs of silent neglect make noisy dents, and a mere smirk becomes a squall.

Finally the shipwrecked arrive naked, thirsty and still-sea-sick on the shores of speech, having experienced the grief and joys of entire lifetimes through the rough and tumble of their 5-minute voyages. Birth. Death. Love. Loss. They aren't the same thoughts that had set out clinging to the logs of now-meaningless sentence-skeletons that had begun the marine dialogue. What is done to them? Held at the harbour and imprisoned as illegal immigrants. Pulled up roughly and questioned. Accused of identity theft or taken for somebody else.

My pen offers asylum to these ineffable, undefinable, and fragile castaway thoughts. It doesn't demand identity papers and passports, doesn't deport them to their unreal homelands or sentence them in courts. It accepts their stateless state,feeble incoherence and the amnesiac silence of their youth. My pen averts its eyes from the wordless nakedness of my thoughts and offers them a choice of clothes. Every word I write is a wondrous robe. Wondrous because my thoughts have chosen the perfect cut, colour and fit every time. Whenever I read something I've written, I know that these erstwhile hollow-eyed refugees are now drawing premature pensions, leading lives of middle-class contentment and fully-clothed dignity in their single bedroom apartments of posterity .I know that they are finally home.

I write because it's the purest composition of what I feel, the form transmuted by nobody else's responses but my own. Sympathy matters more than syntax, acceptance more than agreement, respect more than reason. And only my pen knows that.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

She never lost the habit of muttering to herself. When you set out to be perennially inaudible, your efforts will be as awkward as those of the moist-mouthed straining to restrain a shower of spittle with cupped hands. Afraid of her words flecking people, she dreaded the way they would be wiped away in that conspicuous yet wordless gesture of annoyance that created a wet embarrassed silence in its wake. Only, they took saliva more cheerfully than vagabond words. There were those self-embalmed whispers that nobody bothered to excavate with an exasperated "What were you saying", then those perfectly audible words orphaned in conversational holocausts called arguments. And there were words that got left behind. Like a child is led by hand towards a crowded train only to be left fearfully clutching the hand of a stranger instead. Or the words that actually succeeded to fall in step with the militant march of a discussion. Those words hurt the most. She'd always sweep the floor furtively behind those footsteps, dispersing the defeated dust of her trampled words away from her asthmatic being, struggling to breathe in the clean air of feeling. Or the words that simply got lost. Wandered off into the nothingness of providentially incompetent tongue- tips, choosing it over the nothingness of human ears and hearts. Drowned in those narrow rivulets of clarity separating the wilderness of being misunderstood from the greater wilderness of being understood. Went on indefinite exiles to faraway forests where they wouldn't be dispossessed, dismissed or disowned.

When you spend a lifetime being unheard, you know that all those words don't just melt into silence. She knew that. Memory accounted for each and every stray sentence- uttered and bitten back, shouted and apologized for, constructed and broken down, stored and formatted, typed and backspaced. Memory maintained ledgers, conducted roll calls, and extracted penalties from the truant thoughts. After a lifetime of losing thoughts, she understood that the chaff of that memory-sieve would be tossed into that ever-present black hole that ripped them into forgetfulness.
But sometimes they escaped whole. Sometimes. Stayed behind within her. Lingered. Befriended memory enough to come out of incognito. Then befriended memory so well that they went out for a stroll together sometimes. A jaunt with the jailor. First the words would come out in an astonished breath, astonished at the audacity of infiltrating voices. Then they would recruit question marks into their forbidden ranks the way you spell out a foul word politely instead of enunciating it. Then their daring grew, the questions became increasingly insistent, assumed the tone of assertions and dropped their inquisitive masquerade. Replaced the question mark with the full stop, the "couldn’t"s with the "can"s, the "wouldn’t"s with the "will"s, the "might not"s with the "is"s.
Sometimes they bid for the freedom of validation with their repetitive lull. The final words that were puked into her tear-drenched pillow every tea-stained night.
The first words that etched themselves on her soul during the acid attacks of love.
The words that betrayed her exhibitionist streak when she muttered to herself in solitude, working hard at looking drowned while trying to jettison her true self that she had mistakenly unearthed in a sanguine farce of a treasure hunt.
Words that went around her head like a self-righteously orbiting halo propping up the demolished remains of sense, defining anew the topography of her sanity, where gagged exertions eroded her truths into monosyllabic scripts and well-rehearsed dialogues.

And she lives on, proofreading sent mail and deleting sent messages, rephrasing others’ sentences and reliving others’ lives, memorizing silences by the second and pounding all-night conversations to a forgotten pulp, embracing the anesthetic simplicity of slang and eluding the aesthetic aptness of words-those words, unlike wisdom, that would never give up on her. Ever.