The Spider’s Web

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The alarm goes off, piercing through the cold December morning. It is still dark – all the stars seem to have died. A tangible darkness, like a shroud. Like my shroud. I’d felt at peace while asleep; the alarm changed that, allowing the darkness to sit on my chest like an incubus paralyzing me.

It sings a pleasant tune – more a lullaby than an alarm. In its pleasantness, I sense an evil. A smile that holds knives at the ready. A smile that will slit your throat even as you smile back. Yet it won’t stop ringing.

I grope at the darkness and find a drawer whose steel handle is like ice. I’m about to shove the alarm in, when I find the things I’d lost. Things I thought I’d lost. A long time ago. And among them, a mirror with a golden frame shimmers through the darkness, inviting me to look.

I do and I see again the ugliness I’d forgotten, a resignation, a despair, all woven in. I throw the mirror in after the alarm, and a brief flash shows it to me – shows me the spider’s web in the corner.

I collect my resignation, I collect my despair, and I walk towards the web. I bite my thumb to draw blood. I spit out chunks of skin, erasing off the prints of my fingers. My swollen eyelids burst in pain. And I get the spider’s attention.

My knees tremble for I know it’s the end. Yet I keep walking, one foot after another, on a single silken thread. I see it rise from slumber, its drool spilling, my ugliness mirrored in its ugly eyes. It smiles and reminds me of my alarm clock, the clock that started this mess. I feel no desire to turn back. I walk, I surrender, I’m consumed whole. Then there is nothing but darkness. All the stars seem to have died.


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The Tribute

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There are places you do not belong to. Places that are physical. Places that are moments in time. Yet you find yourself in them, wondering what your purpose is, and where you’d find this purpose.

I feel like that right now, that I do not belong here, but I must not turn around. There are throngs of people around me, each in black, carrying flowers, weeping. Some sing tributes. I know the lyrics as well as any of them, but I do not join in. I hear ocean waves crashing on boulders in my ears – which is strange as we are far away from the ocean. The headstone lies right in front of me and I read each letter, left to right, observing the font, the color, the texture, each curve of each C, each line that makes the I and the Ls. But I refuse to believe it – this is someone else, a namesake, a doppelganger, an impostor.

Just last month, I’d sung one of his songs to entertain my friends; at the time I did not know that today it would turn into a song of mourning.

There’s a tap on my right shoulder. I turn around to see a man, dry-eyed like me, my dazed expression mirrored on his face. He says nothing, but I nod, and let him stand by my side, and we both turn to look at the headstone. I trace the letters with my eyes again.

“Isn’t it strange,” the man says, “when they say ‘loved one’ they only mean family or friends? Sometimes, strangers are loved ones too.”

“Except he wasn’t a stranger, was he? I know what you mean though. We all lost a loved one.”

“His wife and children…” he began, but trailed off.

“I caught a glimpse of them before they opened the service to the public. The wife refuses to believe it was a suicide, I hear.”

“He seemed so happy…”

Yes. Yes, he did. Maybe he felt like he was in one of those places – a gap in space and time where he felt he didn’t belong. When you’re going through the worst, you decide to put up the most cheerful front.

“The last song he sang the night it happened was a song about death,” I said to the man. He nodded, pursing his lips, a vein twitching in his neck, as though he too was on the verge of breaking down, like the rest of the crowd.

A long time ago, I had attended one of his concerts with a friend. I wanted to tell that friend how much those songs meant to me. But he had stopped me, saying he couldn’t hear me above the music. The subject was left for another day, a day that never came around, and I never got to gather my answer.

“You know what I hate about this?” the man said,”They’re going to romanticize this. Romanticize his death.”

He’s right. The press and the public love a tortured rockstar. It’s one of those tropes, sadly.

“It isn’t fair. Not to him, not to his memory. Not to people who admire him,” I said in response.

I think again about the song I’d sang last month, a song I’d spent a lot of my younger days singing. That too is a song about death. There is undercurrent of death in all his songs. Was it in front of us all along? Could someone have helped? Was the warmth, the friendliness, all a facade and nothing more?

The hours pass by, and soon, just a handful of people, the man who’d been talking to me, and I stay back. I’m still trying to collect my thoughts, collect all the ways in which his songs affected me, affected my life. It’s haunting, how certain things permeate our being, how the sudden departure of those we did not really know drains us so emotionally. But in the end, my reasons can be summed up in one line.

I take out an old notebook from my coat pocket. I’d written the lyrics of one of his songs in it over a decade ago, and pressed a wildflower between those pages. I take the now-withered flower and place it near the headstone, a lonely ghost of a flower among all the other bright ones.

“Thank you for showing me how to live. And goodbye.” I cannot bring myself to say his name, but no tears of mine wet the headstone.


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Epiphanies and Second Chances

The knuckles have been cracked. A neck rotation stretch has been done. But the writing is still a little rusty – beginning with sentences in the passive voice. But write we must, and here’s why.

After a terrible few months, I think I had an epiphany of sorts. Make that two epiphanies. No, correction: one epiphany and one sort-of-revelation. You’d think an epiphany would be a grand event that shakes the ground beneath your feet, tears the sky open like a curtain, lightning would strike and thunder would roar, and lions would fall from the sky. But, like nearly everything of importance that happens in a person’s lifetime, epiphanies strike without fanfare. Silently. A simple thought that seems to clear a lot of the fog.

We’ve been taught since childhood that we must not let go of that which we love and that which loves us. I love to write, and on some days, the good days, writing loves me back. It would be foolish to waste that for the reasons I had. My reasons included plagiarism, the terrible state of literature, the terrible state of the world, the terrible state of my life, the rampant back-scratching and reciprocation in the blogging community, the lack of audience, false friends and more. If you think about it, really think about it, I think I did not give up writing for myself, but I gave it up for others. Which is… mind-numbingly stupid.

I may not be as great a writer as my dad thinks I am. But I’m not as bad as my colleague thinks I am. I may not be as good as a certain writer, I may not be as bad as another certain writer. But I’m a writer in my own right, irrespective of where I stand on a scale that someone constructed. And that’s true for anyone who is or wants to be a writer – it doesn’t matter where you stand or who reads you – you have a gift, don’t give that up. We don’t give up on gifts; so few have them, and even fewer have the chance to use them.

So while I sat, wallowing in misery and self pity, and doubts about my ability as a writer, fears about my ability to even carry on with life, a voice whispered, “You don’t get second chances. Don’t give up on writing; that’s the one thing you have that’s entirely your own. Don’t give that up. If you do, you’ll never turn the clock back and get back to it.” I think it was the voice of rational thought. Or, for the spiritually inclined, maybe it was the voice of God? Or maybe my role models speaking to me from the beyond? Whatever it was, it made me realize that I have to do this – I can’t protect my work from being stolen, I can’t force people to read me, and I can’t control what happens in life or who I meet or how they treat me – writing is something I must do. Anything else I say, anything I say to not write, is an excuse, feeble at best. Granted, to reach this conclusion (or epiphany, as I like to believe it is), to understand that you don’t get second chances, to get it through my head that you don’t let go of what’s important, I had to go through the worst pain I’ve known – something, which, at the time, I believed, it would be impossible to recover from – but it’s taught me so much. It’s taught me what’s truly important, and made me realize I was about to throw that away out of pettiness. And I’m recovering. If you had met me this time last month, I would have told you that’s never gonna happen. But to heal is a choice I must make for myself. And that’s what I’m gonna do.

And I’m gonna keep writing till I can. Cos that’s what writers do.

The Fear Of Being Underwhelmed

–Some extremely emotional/sad content ahead. This is a post I composed three months ago. I never thought it would see the light of day because I could not frame my thoughts as coherent sentences. My aim in publishing this today, I guess, is to examine my own thoughts in an attempt to understand them. Pushing the Publish button does force us to stand back and construct full sentences instead of writing jibber-jabber. With that said, there are some conflicting, confusing, and personal things coming up, which, honestly, I don’t think will help anyone. So if you don’t feel like it, please feel free to skip this post.–

It’s been over two years since I wrote this post, the only surviving post on my blog from that era. The reason I did not delete it with the others is because I felt it might, maybe help someone, in a similar situation might relate to it, and find the words to express what they were feeling.

That statement still holds true. Depression gives you jaded glasses through which it forces you to look at the world. Nothing interests you, nothing impresses you, and you’re pretty much a breathing vegetable on the emotional front. In the internet parlance, I would often state that everything is so “meh” in a lighthearted attempt to throw the focus off my mental state. If you want to be optimistic about it, you could say just as much as nothing made me happy, nothing disappointed me either. But that’s digging too deep for the silver lining.

The worst part of it was that I had no one to speak to about it. I had my blog for a while, until the posts were found out, but there was no one I could speak to, not one person who would listen. Or maybe I didn’t try to reach out.

Music plays a big part in our lives. I had very few non-grey days during that period (as opposed to now when I have few grey days) and whenever I could, I’d listen to music. I say whenever I could because even music has the ability to drain you on a bad day. It can enhance, terrible as that sounds, the greyness of your mood.

It was around that time that I heard Temple of Thought, by Poets of the Fall. I realize whatever I say post this statement may sound silly. It is not. Nor am I trivializing my condition, because I know what I went through. I am only telling you how one song, one band helped me at a time when I was at my lowest, strange as it may sound. I received medical attention for my condition a few months later (it’s a different story that I still refused to take my medication – they’re still safely tucked in a drawer) but until then, all I had was Temple of Thought on repeat. There was still no one to talk to, but there was a song reassuring me, a voice telling me, that it is going to be alright, that someone will be there for me. The extent to which it worked, I don’t know, because I was still jaded, still feeling neither excitement nor enthusiasm nor… anything. But I will admit, it was comforting.

The more songs I listened to, the more I began to appreciate everything about them. The lyrics (mostly penned by their lead singer Marko Saaresto) were better than most poetry I had read. When I first published my poetry book, on one of the promotional websites, I cited his name as one of my influences.

A few months ago, the band was in Bangalore on tour to promote their new album. For the first time in so long, I felt excited. I wanted to go for the concert. To see for real the people who helped me when I had all but given up. It was a confusing feeling, given that I had ceased erupting for joy lately, even on the days when outwardly I expressed happiness.

When you’ve been dead for too long, you don’t know how to respond to stirrings of life within you.

R noticed my enthusiasm, and though he is not a fan himself, he agreed to go for the concert with me. He was quite amused by my shenanigans, I think. I have never told him, or anyone (until now, when I put this up on my blog, however briefly) about the impact their music has had on me. Which is when the ugly rose its head again.

The ugly said, they will let you down. The ugly said, you have too many expectations from them. The ugly said, they will be terrible on stage and whatever support you had from them, unbeknownst to them, will be lost forever in the pile of disappointment you will face. The ugly called me a silly fangirl. The ugly said I was giving a larger than life reverence to mere artists who did not deserve it.

The ugly will do all in its ability to smother down even the littlest flame of joy in you.

The first time I tried to book the tickets, it didn’t work due to a system error. I was glad, strangely. Now I realize that was probably ugly’s doing. The ugly wanted me to fail. Ugly wanted me to sabotage my own chance at happiness, to live in that detachment I’d been living with for so long.

After that first attempt, I had given up trying to book tickets, making excuses upon excuses, mainly due to a fear of being underwhelmed by the same people whose music had helped me. R convinced me otherwise. He asked me to give it another go. I refused – stubborn and moody as I am. Mere days before the concert, I gave a try – I think I was looking for a sign. I think, in a superstitious haze, I convinced myself if the tickets were full, then that meant I was better off not having attended the concert. Complicated train of thought, I know.

They were not full.

Of course, like the happy ending in movies, they were not full.

We attended the concert. Oh, and that night, among so many of their wonderful songs, they sang Temple of Thought. I was happy. It was a simple joy.

It may take years before I am overjoyed by an event or display the kind of enthusiasm I was capable of before depression overtook me. I liked my extreme displays of emotion, because they had an innate… humanness to them, that this feeling of sorry indifference forced upon me does not. Someday I will reach there. Until then, more music for me, especially, from my favourite band. They will never know who I am, but this only goes on to prove how much influence someone can have on us, without them even knowing about it. It just goes on to prove, that when you’re good, even without realizing it, you’re helping someone, in some corner of the world.