Hi, long time no see!

I have this blog, but I also have a Google Doc where I write when I am not sure whether to post it online. Most of the time, I write there or I don’t really write a blog entry. I write in my diary, or I write about my adventures in photography and filmmaking in a separate journal, or I work on screenplays for some ongoing and upcoming projects. Today, I decided to write here.

Today is September 11, 2020, and the clock says it’s 2:37 am. I could not fall asleep. Probably, I did not want to and ended up watching Frances Ha, a film on Netflix, directed by Noah Baumbach who also wrote it with Greta Gerwig, who plays Frances. After having watched it, I wanted to write. No, Frances is not a writer. She is a dancer in New York City. She kind of always knew that she wanted to be a dancer. Wait! I want to put it another way. I have grown since I entertained thinking in that manner. Frances loved to dance and knew that that is what she wanted to do. She would even cross the pedestrian crossing in New York, dancing. When an opportunity arises for a moment in her uncertain awkward life where she is offered an admin job in a Dance Company, she refuses. She wanted to dance. I was almost about to disclose a spoiler but chose not to. After having watched the film and liked it, I wondered if I wanted to be a writer. There, again! Let’s try putting it another way. I wondered if I would want to write when I could not sleep, did not feel hungry (which worries me), or were upset. I would not go so far to ask if I would write unless the house was on fire. Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson said in an interview, if you really love it, you would want to write without being distracted until the house was on fire. Distractions do not concern me as much as fear does. When tonight I could not sleep, I hesitated if I should fantasize something sensual and hope that the thoughts would drift me to sleep or if I should try belly-breathing which calms one down and subsequently helps one fall asleep, or if I should write. The thought of writing frightened me. Not because I can not write, but I feared being pulled down by the numerous thoughts in my head that tell me I should rather do something else. I will try to explain in a bit more detail. I have tried writing and quit when I felt my hand aching (when I was using pen and paper). I didn’t quit, actually; I cut it short as if there was something else I had to get back to – such as working or sleeping. What I did after I finished my write-up in a half-assed manner was going back to worrying about my work or my sleep. Once in bed, I would worry about waking up late the next day, or worse, tired, which would not let me want to do anything for the rest of the sea of opportunity, the voyage into the unknown, the day that is yet to be touched (as the doorman said in Modern Love on Amazon Prime). Today I decided to just write. I decided I won’t use pen and paper, in case my hand ached. Are you still reading this? I don’t know why, but I feel happy. Don’t feel obliged to read on if you soon find yourself losing steam. I am not writing for you. I am writing for me. When I got out of bed a while ago deciding to write, I thought I will write for Frances Ha, the character, the movie, its filmmaker, its writers, and all cast and crew who produced it together. But it seems, I am just writing for myself.

Right here is the point in my writing, when I want to talk more but fear that the writing will get too long or lose its point. There is no point, at least none that I can see right now. But this late night/early morning urge and its associated fear reminded me of my tepidness in accepting life as it is and constantly being scared and cautious about the tiniest degree of uncertainty that lingers on every moment of my breathing this planet’s air. I am tired of being scared. I told myself before leaving my bed – ‘the brave seize the day’, and then tried to remember where I heard it. I could not. I did, however, repeat myself a few times until I finally got out of bed. I have decided to talk about my fear of failure and the consequent lack of drive. Not to you, but to someone I have never talked before. I think I want to get to the bottom of this. Last time I talked to someone about this, I was handed a book on Jesus written by someone who believed in capital punishment. She thought being self-centered was a possible issue of my grief. I considered her idea and started reading the book. I did not finish it. The writing seemed shallow, insincere, and judgmental, and reflected a one-track mind of the author – the track of God. I do not have mixed feelings about God. As of today, I have failed to believe in deities or a superior power or intelligence with a sense of right and wrong (as humans do). I have found another meaning of God though, which aligns more with a spiritual quest rather than the relief brought to the mind depending on the idea of faith. We will talk about that another day. Today, Frances Ha got me to write.

I did want to share that I watched four movies today – Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Mayurakshi (2017), Due Date (2010), and Frances Ha (2012). I have nothing more to add to that. I will get back later. It’s 3:07 am now. I want to finish a half cigarette on my balcony before going back to bed. Why half a cigarette? Well, these are the days. Maybe one day I can tell you more about that once I know more. See you soon!

A sincere breakdown

I see us,

Wannabes, drifting

Swiftly and steadily

Away from each other and

Ourselves.

A veil of what could be a dreamland

Eats us from inside, leaving behind

A hollow shell and empty pride.

Too scared to ask if what we are is real,

We choose to deny, keep our minds shut

And our selves high.

It is when we fall, and hit

That sweet spot of despair,

I want to see you again

Hold close our hearts

And cheer.

For, a sincere breakdown was hard to come by.

Existential queries

Do you write?
Why?
What would be different if you didn’t?
What would stay the same?
Would the words matter?
Do you know which words would matter?
But, who do you write for?

Don’t you start with
‘Oh, but I can’t do without writing my heart out.’

Let’s go deeper.
Why do you write?

Also, why don’t you?
Because, things change when you do –
The words, the matter, the Soul
The one you write for, and
The one you write to.

So, why don’t we?

Nothing happened

Nayar sneaked out of the bustling dining room, now packed with madness and rhythm, to find a corner to stand at, preferably behind a plant. There are many potted plants in this flat. And many paintings. About half an hour back he was taking his time appreciating a Jamini Ray-esque painting in the narrow hallway to the bedrooms on the second floor. The painting was of animals only, with a single human figure lurking in the background. The animals – the cows, cats, dogs, and goats had their eyes drawn wide and big, probably as a tribute to Jamini Ray’s work. Nayar soon realized, the fern wasn’t providing much cover. His ears still needed a way out. He decided to visit the painting again.

‘I’ll grab a drink before heading upstairs,’ he set into motion a roadmap for the evening.

‘Do they have a terrace,’ he wondered.

‘Ah! One step at a time, he said to himself’. He’s been trying to live in the moment. He doesn’t know how long before he can muster the courage to let go of his painting of the future. He knows it is difficult and will take time. His thoughts accompanied him on his way upstairs. But he couldn’t get to the painting as he had planned. There was somebody already seeing it, a glass lingering lazily in her fingers. Is that scotch! Nayar remembered, he forgot to grab his drink.

He leaned to look down the stairs, as if to check on his prospects of going back to his plan – the drink, the painting, just him, and a quiet sneaky exit when no one’s looking. He has become particularly adept at this last bit. Reconsidering the options, his gaze returned to the Ray-esque painting. The girl is gone! He didn’t waste a moment to get back in front of the painting. Just as he stood in front of the wide eyes, he heard a door close nearby. He felt fresh air stealing its way in and treaded away from the canvas to find the source, and found a small balcony and the girl from before, waiting. Hey, is that, what’s her name! From State College, his last roommate’s colleague from his lab. She will recognize him. He must say hi!

‘Hi!’

‘Hello’, she said in a tone politely, her eyes silently wondering – how can I help you?

Is that her? God it’s dark over here. ‘Did you live in State College?’

‘Where?’

‘Penn State? No?’

‘Ah. No. Sorry’. Again a polite smile.

‘Good! It would have been embarrassing if you were her. I have completely forgotten her name.’ She didn’t respond. Is it customary to leave now? Can she leave instead? The balcony is nice and quiet. There are plants here too – creepers. ‘Would you mind if I stood here as well? It’s quieter than the dance floor,’ he asked.

They stood there in silence. Nothing happened.

About breakdowns

Do breakdowns have patterns?

A network of mistakes woven,

Blended together

Churning out meaning as needed?

Do breakdowns have to mean something?

Can’t they be debris of the soul

Weary after fights to win over Time?

Have I shed too much in one place? Am I lost in mountain of mistakes and vices?

Do I change my place? My body? What about another life?

Do they mend souls?

The crisis in Identity

When we were born, in whatever way our individual soul was conceived as an elemental component of the universal soul, what was our identity? How did that identity take shape over the years? How many years? Births? This modern world has been churning out a mountain of consumables, for instant gratification. This sure has created problems of disparity among economic classes, but humans have evolved too. Every day, before the pandemic started, hard-earned money seemed best spent in a good meal, or a movie- instant gratification as well. Should we recognize this as an internal opportunistic revolt against the economic disparity evident around us, or consequences of a trickle-down economy?

Looking at an instance far less broad, and an opportunity to delve deeper in search for that original identity, the inner voice, our hearts, the individual soul presents an interesting case of a periodic loss of identity. As children are educated with what they are taught to think as ways to follow their dreams, the search for heart often renders a luxurious landscape for the haves. Many have-nots remind themselves and everyone they know, including their children, that security is the key to happiness – a destination where one should aim to reach as fast as possible and stay as robust as they can, for as long as they can manage to stay alive. Next, comes – why focus on sustaining when we can aim to grow? This sounds like a gigantic goal with hopes, which, after being developed in the darkroom may look like depictions of still life rather than portraits. With every job we take pushing the ‘eventually’ a little further, every relationship in which we agree to let ourselves get adjusted to what seems like an endless lapse in time, every hobby we think we can keep pushing until we have children, we wait for ideal candidates to ‘provide’ direction on what would get us closer to our given up dreams. Identities are compromised every step of the way, as a veil of potentially upcoming opportunities keeps the present hidden. The cyclic process of daily life quietly hums under the chaos of an entire species trying to move through their days as quickly as possible, in such a rush to reach somewhere else, that they forget they are here. I am here.

Rain

It is one of those nights in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania. The rains arrived at the Appalachians shortly after noon. I was on video call with my parents, and constantly being pulled to steal a glance, see the beautiful downpour, the tango of the twigs, bristle of the leaves, just outside my window. It’s past eleven now, on a saturday night. My neighbors across the street still have their lights turned on, as have I. Somewhere, the HVAC motor keeps maintaining a low hum, occasionally accompanied by the sound of cars passing by. A gentle breeze meets the oak in front of my door.

‘Does one want to know where I live?’

The breeze and I are locked in a gaze. My windows are open. The small lucky bamboo plant on my desk is excited to feel an old friend in his arms after a long time.

‘Even the moon has come and gone now, since it last rained’, the fried up tips of the long leaves complained. But they are happy now.

‘When will it rain again?’

Dear Dido

I have imagined a thousand times, of writing to you. I didn’t write, because I was caught up in the silly, singular prospect of those words reaching you. It has been a long time since I first heard you, about fourteen years. I have grown since and you have too. I am 32 now, and have only recently realized the outcry in ‘Life for rent’. I listened to your song ‘Take you home’ a year ago, and refused to accept it. I didn’t ask why, but simply refused. I listened to it a while back, and I see you again. I see you have changed, and I see how. To ask why is above me. I see us again. Being true to my vivid imaginative self, I visualized a story set in a victorian balcony in darkness – you draped in a beautiful dress, and I am there as myself – glasses in our hands, half filled, with space for moments to come, words to burn, letters to keep, songs to sing along when you’re there, and for company when no one else is around.

I thank you, your words, your stories, your hopes, your disappointments, your failures, your mistakes, and your journeys of coming back home. I look forward to seeing us again.

Sincerely

Last words

Every night before going to bed, he switches the lights off. As he went to turn off the staircase light, he could see the trash can is still out. They had just received a notice couple of days back about keeping the trash cans outside throughout the night. Apparently, they attract wildlife. He climbed down, brought the bin inside, turned the lock clockwise and whispered softly – ‘I locked the door’. He does this everytime he locks the door. He heard somewhere that it works for those who forget if they have locked the door, or turned off the gas, or something that our thoughts may spin their magic on to turn into a nightmare. Was it a Ted talk? The presenter had actually said to say it loud, but he whispers. ‘Should do the job’, he says to himself. He put his eye mask on and slept off. He woke up the next day, made a cup of tea and the entire day went by without him leaving his house or talking to anyone. He had leftovers for lunch, took a nap, and soon it was dark outside. ‘Is it already time for dinner’, he wondered.

The hot bowl of soup, held carefully in thick, padded mittens, survived the journey from the microwave to the counter, as the clumsy thirty-two year old almost tripped over the hand-woven cotton door mat. It had formed a bundle of utter neglect and trapped his foot as he turned towards the counter. On other days he could have blamed his roommates. But both of them leaving him with his lonesome dissertation has added to the disappointment of finding no one to blame when the need arises. The mat used to be at the entry, right after you have climbed up the fourteen steps, when he first moved into this apartment, with two other Bengali graduate students. The four by three woven creature kept crawling towards the inside, dragging on our snow-boots salt-stained, weary shoelaces until one day we felt the need of a doormat at the sliding door to the really spacious balcony. Where would we keep our sandals smeared with ash and snow just after we have taken a nicotine break and complained about how the winter felt too long! The balcony, and its perfect wooden planks meeting the red bricks of the wall – burnt, not painted, with the beautiful view of the mountains, and the night sky, and any chance of stealing glances at night get ruined by a bright white light installed at the corner of our building. The doormat at my balcony didn’t mind the bright white light. But as the sandals by the balcony stopped carrying snow, somehow the mat moved to the front of the kitchen. It was then inside the kitchen, right at the center. It was actually proving quite useful, except now, when our Ramen-loving Bengali almost tripped over a loose flap of cloth that’s strained from its path. Soon, the Ramen was safely set down on his desk. He went back to the kitchen for a spoon, and to fill his bottle of water. He came back inside, closed the door with his elbow and slumped on the chair. He is hungry! As he sat down, pulling closer the steaming bowl of Ramen noodles, his favorite quick meal, be it breakfast, lunch, snack, or dinner, he felt two hands covering his eyes.

Startled, he reached for the hand, but couldn’t recognize who it was. He heard a giggle, and then one hand took off the glasses, bent over, and kept it on the desk while the other hand, almost soothingly chilly, stretched to cover both his eyes. Leaned, head hung back in submission, he could feel her fingers, her arms, hair, ears, and eyes. A tiny smile was forming at the corner of his lip, as he heard a stale whisper from last night echo inside his head, his last words.

A little something to add

Welcome to another day of writing. Today I started something new. I sense that my words are trying to sound more chirpy than the persistent frown on my forehead might suggest. I realize I have been trying a lot. But this feels closer to the heart, trying to make writing a part of my daily life, at least as frequent as my cigarettes. I tried to write first thing in the morning today – taking it a bit to the extreme, after listening to a TED Talk last night on a deeper living through writing – even before leaving bed. For me, paper and bed don’t go together, and I did not want to have to check my phone first thing in the morning. I am going to keep that idiot on the desk from now on. Spatial factors to influence performance makes it different from simply tinkering in that the former involves the heart more deeply. You care about it. Anyhow, writing became clumsy – my writing was illegible but I wrote about how I was feeling inside – scared. First thing in the morning, I admitted that I was afraid, that I did not want to get out of bed, that I wasn’t ready yet. I wrote these words, and pulled the sheet over my eyes; the room was brightly lit by the morning sun. Only some hours back I had expressed how thankful I feel for the bright sun; since my childhood, I expect it to cheer me up. The expectation has continued with brief alignment in our timelines that I remember fondly as ‘I am now a morning-person’ days. I left bed after a while. Since then I have written twice in the diary I started today, and once here, in my blog. Oh wow! Who’s counting the words now?

There was something else, that was bothering me. I feel a strong urge to let it come back to me so I can get to thinking about what can be done about it, but maybe I decide that when I remember, slow down a bit. Feel the rhythm, rather than skipping it. Let’s start slow. I will feel moment just as deeply as I feel the magic of music and sound.

4:03 pm

P.S.: I have already asked my friend. The wait list was arbitrary.