With each passing hour
and every distant step,
Friends become strangers
And strangers become friends.
Lovers become enemies
And enemies die.
With each passing hour
and every distant step,
Friends become strangers
And strangers become friends.
Lovers become enemies
And enemies die.
It is often said that people who are near death see their lives flash before their eyes as they die. That concept had always intrigued me. It didn’t seem possible that someone could actually see their lives flash past. A life is years and years of activity. Years and years of experiences, of events, of emotions. Which part of a person’s life flashes before them? And how do they see it? A literal sight before their eyes as their actual surroundings disappear? Or just as a series of memories? And how long does this last?
It seemed to me that I was experiencing something of that sort as I pulled myself up. I didn’t think I was dying (or perhaps I was – I really didn’t know if I would survive the climb into the darkness), but I did have images flash through my mind. Notice I say “my mind”. I was perfectly clear where I was and what was actually in front of me. It was just the sensation of having powerful memories take over your being.
Ashara’s first meeting with my mother. Don’t ask me why that was the first of the memories that came into my head.
It happened just three weeks before, on the start of the new year. My mother knew of Ashara, of course. But both of them had seemed strangely reluctant to get to know each other. I had imagined my mother jumping at the opportunity to meet my partner, but she had endlessly put it off. Ashara, on her part, had always been overcome with a need to put on her makeup or attend to various bodily needs every time I spoke to my mother on the phone.
I didn’t expect them to be the best of friends. But it was one of the strangest meetings I could have witnessed, and I still don’t know what to make of it. Ashara dressed like she always did. She was distinct, yet she was elegant. She wore her snake bracelet – a dark gold reptilian body coiled around her slim wrist. She wore it everywhere, looking like Egyptian royalty. A deep purple knee-length toga with her hair in a high ponytail. She didn’t wear makeup.
My mother was dressed as she always was. A long, white, shapeless gown. Her grey hair in a long, thin pigtail. She wore two rings, one on each ring finger. The one on the left was her wedding band; the one on the right was a silver ring with a yin and yang symbol on it. I think she found it at a bazaar.
Seeing them both together was like seeing a high priestess meet a sacrificial victim. They were exactly the same height. Yet my mother deliberately seemed to hunch over as she spoke to Ashara. She bowed slightly when Ashara accepted her offer of tea. When I cracked an unsuccessful joke, she looked to Ashara for a reaction before reacting herself. Ashara sat on the sofa facing outwards; my mother sat to her right with her body tilted towards Ashara.
Neither of them spoke much. But despite this, the silence was comfortable. It was as if Ashara and my mother knew their places and were happy occupying these places. Neither was the superior – they were just people with different roles to play.
Three hours in my mother’s house passed like that. With me playing host while they sat next to each other and played out their silent scene. Yet before we left, they gave each other genuine smiles. My mother, in a sudden show of love, told Ashara to look after me and she readily agreed.
I discovered after that that Ashara and my mother liked each other well enough.
I felt a dull ache in the middle of my head as I recounted that incident. Perhaps the memory was meant to convince me to put my head into the darkness.
Just one more hand and I would have pulled myself past the limits of the mirror. Just one more hand before I found out if I would lose that hand, and if I was going to exist as a body without a head.
I felt hysterical laughter welling up within me. A body without a head! Me! We all know what happens when a human body loses its head. But in a world where I had stood apparently legless, only to have them appear when they was in front of the mirror, anything could happen. What happened if I ended up being transported back to my world with an invisible head? Would the food I chewed be visible or would it become invisible as well? A loud snort escaped me but it was swallowed almost immediately by the darkness behind me.
It was my first time actually experiencing sound waves. I mean, everybody knows that they exist, but no one ever sees them. I could have sworn that my snort had left me as a series of waveforms that rippled the air in front of me. I saw them bounce off the mirror, rippling the air between my face and the mirror. As the waves travelled towards the sides of my face, they warped and disappeared to nothingness.
I pulled my hand off the mirror and slammed it down as hard as I could. It was difficult since the the lizard-like stickiness seemed to be combined with some kind of magnetism that made it difficult to move my hand far from the mirror or control how strongly I slammed it down. Still, I noticed it again. Small ripples that emerged from where my hand made contact with the mirror which were swallowed up as soon as they hit the darkness a short radius away from me. In fact, it seemed that the sound waves could only travel about an inch away from the mirror and me. Everywhere else, there was nothing. A black hole with the event horizon around me. My astronomy professor would have been pleased. I had skipped most of his lectures, choosing to watch Star Wars instead. But it was his fault, really. He wore an R2D2 tie every lecture and carried a small paperweight in the shape of a Tauntaun.
There was nothing left to do but go up. As much as I didn’t want to lose my head, I could only know what was in the darkness if I put my head in it.
So I reached up into the space above me, my hand disappearing as it passed the boundary of the mirror into the darkness. I placed it down on something that felt like cold concrete. Then I shut my eyes tightly, said a quick prayer (or whatever passed for a prayer since I had never prayed in my life) and pulled myself up.
For a common good,
Sacrificing one person
Sitting ‘neath the vent.
(Disclosure: I sit beneath the vent in my office. I freeze every day while the temperature outside hovers around 30 deg.)
I have always wanted to experiment with film and spoken word. Found myself with some spare time after falling ill and decided it was time to give it a shot.
Turns out it isn’t easy putting a video together. It took ages for me to finally be satisfied with the script for the narrative. Then I had figure out what the visuals were going to be, take those videos and learn how to use the video editing software. There were hours spent pondering over how best to cut and stitch the clips together while keeping the flow going. Recording the narrative posed another problem – my voice is naturally higher-pitched and not easy on the ears when recorded. Plus there was a background hiss that was really difficult to remove. So I had to learn how to use the audio editing software as well. Syncing both audio and video later turned a few strands of hair white.
But now, at last, the video is finally complete! Tediousness aside, I definitely want to try doing more of these.
A friend recently took this lovely picture and captioned it “We were only awake in the beginning.” The caption could be interpreted in a couple of ways, but the real story is quite literal – two men having to work outside in the wee hours of the morning.
I loved the photograph so much that I tried to create a poem around it (and them, as I imagined it). So here goes.
Awake in the Beginning
We were only awake in the beginning
Walking through streets awash with the yellow glow
Of streetlamps lined up as if waiting
For our arrival.
We were counting down the hours, yet the night was all but ending.
The clock’s ticking so slow
As we struggled with Fatigue as if fighting
For our survival.
We were breathing in the stillness. Breathing –
In. Out. In. Out. Fallow:
The state of being.
We could only wait. For revival.
I took a few deep breaths as I processed this. To not exist and exist at the same time – wasn’t there a scientific explanation for it? Yes, there was – I recalled something to do with an animal. A bird? An insect? A mouse? A cat?
A cat. That sounded right. Schrodinger’s Cat. The famous thought experiment used to show just how ridiculous the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics was. Particles existing in all states until it is observed. A cat was placed in a box with a radioactive sample, a Geiger counter and a bottle of poison. If the Geiger counter detected that the radioactive sample had decayed, the bottle of poison would be smashed and the cat would be killed. Since, according to the Copenhagen interpretation, the sample would simultaneously exist both in a decayed and un-decayed state independent of our observation of it, then it stood to reason that the cat would simultaneously be alive and dead. Which naturally made no sense.
Unless you found yourself in your mirror, looking out into the emptiness that was your bathroom.
I must be in a different world. That water that came out of the tap did look like it had a galaxy floating around in it. Come to think of it, I didn’t know why I drank the water. It was as if the water had just pulled me to it. Into it, into me. I was in the water, wasn’t I? Or was the water just a wormhole that took into this world?
I shook my head and it felt like I was either moving under water, or contending with a gravitational pull far greater than what I was used to. There was a resistance in the mirror that didn’t exist in the world I came from.
I could see my mirror-self in the world I came from. He never seemed to have trouble moving along with me. But I couldn’t see my other self from this mirror world.
I wondered what my other self was seeing. Did I even exist in that world now? If my consciousness was pulled into this world, then my body in that world would be just an empty shell, wouldn’t it? I found a devious grin snaking onto my face as I thought of Ashara finding me standing immobile before the mirror.
We’d met in the lift at the office one day. I didn’t know she was our client. The first thing she said when she saw me was that my tie was crooked. And then she ignored me.
I straightened my tie almost compulsively every day after that.
We met the second time at her office. As our meeting progressed, she announced to my bosses that she doubted my ability to work on their campaign. And then she said she’d give me another chance.
As I left, she told me that my tie was too straight. I quietly pulled it off-center.
There was a subtle shift in the bathroom in front of me. I couldn’t put a finger on it. Something, like a flicker, and it looked the same again. I couldn’t wait here in the mirror forever, could I? I reached my hands out and touched to cool glass again. There had to be a way through.
I pressed my hands hard against the glass. It didn’t yield. But it seemed to stick, like lizard’s feet. Slowly, I stuck my hands on the glass above my head and tried pulling myself up. The muscles in my arms strained against the weigh pressing down on me, but I managed it. I unstuck one hand and placed it slightly above the other, intending to climb like a lizard.
I seemed to get heavier with every pull, though. Peering down at my non-existent feet, I realised that a part of my hip was becoming visible – the part that was now in front of the mirror. Did that mean that my hands would disappear once they passed the top of the mirror? I had about five more hands to go before I reached the top.
For the first time that day, I felt a twinge of uncertainty. What if I never got out?
I have been quite obsessed with this Snickers commercial lately. And I don’t just mean I’ve been watching it over and over again. I’ve been sending this link to just about anyone I know, posting it up on social media and talking about it to anyone who’d listen.
It’s Mr Bean! I mean, who can resist him? I’d totally get Snickers now!
Bored? Here’s something for you: See if you can figure out how the header image fits into the wallpaper.
Comment (19 November 2014): This blog’s design has changed. The original header image is as follows.
A software engineer, an advertising student, a kindergarten teacher, a communications executive, a researcher in physics and I. We came from all nationalities and our ages ranged from the early twenties to the early fifties. What an incongruous sight.
I joined this small group of strangers I found online in an arts meet-up group for dinner a few days back. Now most people would not find that strange in the least. Unless you’re socially anxious and introverted most of the time.
That’s me. Put me in a room full of strangers and my knees tremble. I feel an inexplicable urge to run. My mind blanks out and I cannot even remember how to introduce myself beyond the “Hi, I’m Meera” stage. My eyes bulge and my mouth gapes until I look like I’m mimicking a goldfish.
In any case, one of my New Year resolutions for 2013 was to get over that. As all resolutions go, I never did it. Sure, I met new people through friends. It wasn’t that bad, since I could rely on my friends to act as a buffer of sorts. I reconnected with old friends that I hadn’t met in years, but they didn’t count since they weren’t completely strangers.
But then came the turning point. In 2014, I found a group of art enthusiasts online and in a moment of daring, RSPVed to a dinner they were organising. The regret came instantly, but along with it came a small thrill of knowing that I was on my way to fulfill that 2013 resolution.
The day came, and ten minutes before I was supposed to meet them, I was loitering suspiciously outside the restaurant we were having dinner at. My heart was pounding and I was considering ditching the plan altogether (really, what was I thinking?!). I took a deep breath, tweeted, and was off, stumbling into the wrong floor and was being greeted enthusiastically by a group of people holding a farewell party for an unknown person. After five lines of conversation, we realised I wasn’t there for the farewell and I left, mortified. In desperation, I asked the restaurant staff for the table that was booked by the organiser of my gathering and was directed to it (don’t ask why it didn’t occur to me to do this first). I cannot describe the relief I felt at finally meeting her and hitting the point of no return.
Having sat through the dinner, I think I can safely say that I will soon be able to cross that resolution off my list. It isn’t hard to get over something once you put your mind to it. Especially when you tell yourself that having done it once, successfully, you can always do it again.