The wristwatch

Time flies when you are engrossed in work, working from home that is. You just go on slogging away, unaffected by lockdowns, or news of the menacing virus, even the fact that you haven’t met your friends for a while doesn’t matter.

As I write these lines on a lazy, cloudy Saturday afternoon, my thoughts go back to the conundrum that is time. And time reminds me of Erica’s wristwatch, which is still in my possession.

I met Erica at a wedding party of an acquaintance. We found ourselves seated at the same table with three other people who knew each other a little too well. I am not very sociable, and it’s not because I am shy. It’s just that conversations at social gatherings sound inane to me. Erica however, had othes ideas on the subject and started a conversation about the size of fingers and how it meant different things for men and for women. Her theory was that the size of fingers is directly proportional to the size of penis or to the magnitude of artistic inclination if you had no penis. She was ten years older than me, though she didn’t look like it. She didn’t look exceptionally beautiful either, or to put it in another way, if I was with my girlfriend I wouldn’t have checked her out. But she looked young, maybe she lied about her age. In any case, for her, things like age, marital status, size of fingers, beauty, played a part only in social gatherings.

‘If you cannot change something by your thinking or your way of life, it is pointless to discuss it,’ she had said looking at my face filled with wonder.

‘So what is it that matters to you?’

‘Time,’ she had replied instantly, ‘it’s the most important aspect of our lives. Yet we either ignore it or take it for granted.’

She had a solemn expression on her face, a look that went well with her elegant dark purple dress and probing eyes. I didn’t know what to say in response to that, so I complimented on the food.

After the wedding, we went our ways. I had then finished school and got myself a job which kept me busy. When I met her next, she was with a man who looked as tipsy as she looked bored. I walked up to her and tried in my clumsy way to remind her of our earlier encounter. She cut me short in acknowledgement, asked for my number and dialed.

‘So you have my number now,’ she said with a wink.

‘Don’t sit on it, your time is running out,’ added her companion. She shushed him in a way that looked either like admonishing, or a bit condescending.

My life was well occupied those days, both on the professional and personal front. I had a girlfriend who was very much into drinking and sex, she never asked the difficult relationship questions. So I never felt the urge to call Erica.

At midnight on a weekday, a few weeks later, she called. I ignored, but she kept calling and forced me to get up and answer.

‘You should not take phone calls at midnight,’ she said.

I was too baffled to even comprehend it, and replied in some grumpy gibberish. Then she started interrogating me about why I asked for her number when I didn’t intend to call. I was getting more and more awake by the tone of her voice, which was accusative, but somehow felt husky and seductive. We talked for a long time. She did most of the talking, but I liked what she had to say. It was not often that you come across weird, mysterious women.

We met the next day for coffee, but she didn’t appear to be interested in either the coffee or the conversation. Neither did she look interesting, nor was she weird. We left soon and were in her bedroom. She undressed quickly and gestured me to do the same. There was a sense of urgency about her movements, it percolated into mine too. Then she took out a wristwatch from the table drawer next to the bed and looked at me. I was however not in a mood to ask questions. She kept stealing glances at the watch during the sex, which lasted longer than average, maybe because of this curious behaviour. Even towards the end she was more interested in the watch than either me or her pleasures. It was disturbing, but I liked it. She was weird after all. Apart from this queer behaviour, everything about her was normal, she always looked presentable, she was good at conversations and quite intelligent too.

Everytime after that she would wear the wristwatch, but only while having sex. Once done, she put take it off, slowly with deliberation and either put it back in the drawer or into her purse if we were at my place. I don’t recall why, but this measured way of hers somehow prevented me from broaching the subject, there were always better topics to talk to her about. Also, I might have been worried that talking about the watch might put a stop to this unique experience I was going through.

Once she followed my eyes and probably my thoughts as she was putting the watch away. She was naked and looked beautiful. She asked me if she was and I nodded. Then she said something that I still think about.

‘There is something odd about every human being, and the reason why we find some people to be normal, to be like others, is not because they lack imagination or verve. It’s because we have not examined them closely yet.’

I worked out many theories. At first I thought she was interested in checking how long it takes, maybe she maintains a journal. Probably an excel sheet. Every relationship, as we all know, follows the bell curve of sex-time. I have myself often thought of breaking up at the apex. No one feels bad at being dumped when they just had the best sex in a relationship. The only flaw in this approach is to correctly assess, how do you know if you have hit the absolute maxima. To add to the problem is women, they have their own ways of assessing. An objective way of evaluation is next to impossible if it’s to be done with consensus. I had this constant worry that she might be planning to pull off the bell curve tangent on me. I mean, after all I invented it.

This went on for a few months till the night we went out for a movie. She was very quiet throughout, maybe she was the type who want an immersive experience. After the movie, we went to her place and I found myself alone on her bed. She had gone to freshen up. I was so accustomed to the room, that there was nothing more to explore. And then it happened. On an impulse, I took the wristwatch from the drawer and put in my pocket. She came back and we went through the usual routine till it was the turn for the watch.

She rummaged the contents of the drawer to no success. Then she searched among the books, the cupboard. I tried telling her that it was ok, that we can look for it later, but she gestured me to stop speaking and went on looking frantically for it in every nook and corner. I saw how disturbed she was and decided it was enough, I had almost taken it out of my pocket when she turned around abruptly and looked into my eyes. I was wrong, she was not disturbed, or irritated. She just stood still, looking at me as if transfixed and I saw sadness. I was seeing her sad for the first time.

But the sadness she felt looked distant, so far away from me and my ideas of sadness that it felt alien, a feeling so intense that I froze. In the silence that ensued, I could hear my heart beat in my chest and the watch tick in my pocket, but these sounds were drowned by the echoes of sorrow coming out from some unknown place within her. I wanted to console her, but I knew it would only aggravate her pain because what I really felt then was a mixture of pity and guilt. She snapped out of it after a few more minutes of remaining suspended and asked me to leave, which I did. The watch remained in my pocket.

The next day she didn’t take my call. I tried contacting her but she severed all ties and cut off all channels of communication. I did see her a couple of times, but she was always with a group of friends.

Almost a year later, I found sitting alone in a pub, sipping a beer and looking peaceful, contended. I went up to her and was thankful that she recognised me. Instead of small talk, I plunged into the watch episode straightaway, and confessed to my crime. To my surprise, she was neither angry nor sad, instead she acted as if it didn’t matter and tried to change the subject and ask me about my life. But I was determined. I had to ask, and I did, expecting either no response or a lengthy explanation. Surprising me further, or rather confusing me, she said, ‘I look at the passage of time when I am most vulnerable, during those moments when I am about to lose the sense of time.’ I wanted her to go on, but she got up and walked away. Only at the door did she stop and turned around, smiled at me and blew me a flying kiss. Thats when I saw that she was wearing the same wristwatch.


Rumi for the Dummy

Reading a Rumi quote is a wonderful experience. Most of these quotes seem wise, and therefore out of this world. Even if you don’t get it, you can’t help feeling that there is a grand vision in these quotes, a meaning that’s close, yet just out of reach, just like any good piece of poetry.

So you read it again, and you start analyzing. What this man must have gone through, what went on in that mind, that he came up with such gems. More often than not, you find an acceptable reasoning. Following are some of the quotes that have been researched and analyzed to satisfaction, presented for your perusal.

Be melting snow. Wash yourself of yourself.

And turn into water?

What Rumi is trying to say here is –
you could wash yourself of yourself,
but you wouldn’t be the same.
Washing changes the person.

But did Rumi hate to take baths?

The next quote might shed more light on the subject.

Let the waters settle and you will see the moon and the stars mirrored in your own being.

That’s what Rumi told his friends
when they dared him to dive into the troubled waters.

They were used to Rumi talking to them in quotes and didn’t give it any importance.

This quote is appreciated years later,
when water bodies became inaccessible,
and people started seeing things,
hearing inner voices, of their being,
locked up alone.

Anyways, coming back to Rumi, he must have succumbed to what his friends judged him to be. He had to write himself out of the situation.

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.

This is clever and loosely translates to:
dont be a dud,

its okay if you are selfish and lazy.
the universe is after all – just you,
and its already ecstatic with movement,
so relax.

Rumi did, for only then one can come up with such wonderful quotes, but he fell in love? It surely happens to the lazy and the selfish more than others.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.

This is a difficult one to explain,
because its purely anecdotal.

Young Rumi loved a girl and wrote her a verse every Friday night [note: he didnt write daily!]

Even though the girl didn’t understand the content, she grasped the intent and asked him to meet her.

Rumi went running to Shams for permission, and of course that meeting was not to be.

A disappointed Rumi wrote this [very reusable] quote.

The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

Well pain follows,
because nothing can travel faster than the speed of light.
Also, by corollary,
if you are in a really dark place,
you won’t get any wound,
not until you switch on the light.

Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.

Rumi might have meant something wonderful, but for the modern man this sums up corporate life.

You sell your skills and talents
and buy bewilderment,
about why they wont give you a hike or a promotion.

The modern man follows Rumi’s quotes without realizing it?

Why do you stay in prison when the door is so wide open?

Of all the quotes, this one stands out due to its overtly metaphorical tone,
because if you are in a prison
and the door is wide open,
its always a bad idea to step out.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.

What’s wrong and what’s right is subjective, like this in-depth analysis.
Therefore it doesn’t matter where we meet,
could be a field, or to be more sensible cafe,
what really matters is the grass,
of which you take so much that your soul lies down,
and once that happens,
then not just the world,
you wont feel like talking about anything.

I must stop too.


Incomplete stories

‘Lost in the forest, the prince wandered, looking for a sign, trying hard to listen for a human voice. But the evening had gone quiet, as if the forest had stopped on its tracks and was peering at him. He saw its two eyes behind a bush and stood transfixed. That’s when the howling began, he couldn’t move even though he knew they were coming for him.’

‘Do you know what was coming for him?’

She would ask these questions out of nowhere, with flair, enjoying herself more than we did.

I remember how the wrinkles around her eyes swelled and spread all over her face as she broke into that mysterious, mischievous smile. Just like how you could almost feel the monsters and the evil men lurking around in her stories, you could sense the gleeful laugh somewhere behind that smile.

At such interruptions, we were filled with conflicting feelings of relief and frustration. But the smile was infectious, and a giddiness invariably seeped in. Like the moon breaking out of the clouds, guided by the gentle night breeze.

‘Listen to the foxes.’

The rasping voice would break out suddenly, startling us. We would hush up trying hard to listen, beyond the raucous chirping of the crickets, and the rustling of the leaves of the trees around the courtyard. On every such occasion, a firefly would appear out of nowhere and hover close, distracting us. Finally however, we would hear the sounds of the foxes. Like cries of a baby, far away.

‘Do you know what just happened.’

We would say no in chorus, expectant and eager.

‘The fox granma just completed the story. A broken up story devours the weakest. She should have known better, but you know how it is with foxes. They think they are so clever.’

What happens at the end, tell us, we are not interested in foxes.

If you don’t listen to the complete tale and rush to the end, the forest claims a little one, she would say raising her eyebrows and making a circle with her small mouth.

But that also means the prince lives for another day and for another adventure. A little fox is the casualty for tonight, this crying only makes the forest happier. You were lucky that I paused. And she would laugh, with her whole body.

I am sipping beer and my sisters rum under the city sky. After years, the three of us have managed to meet. Everyone’s life has been busy, and each has more than one story to tell. Somehow, the topic shifts to those summer vacation nights with granma. Maybe because we could finally see the stars in the night sky, thanks to a virus. Who would have thought.

We try to remember, but none of her stories seemed to have an ending. She would distract us, and we were always too engrossed, or too sleepy to notice.

All I remember is the foxes, the younger one says.

She was too young to remember the princes, the forests and lurking monsters.

The sound of the foxes grew scarce as we grew old, and every year granma’s stories got weirder. Not that we minded. The breaks and the missing parts only served to increase our intrigue. Little did we know that she was not doing it deliberately, or maybe she did. Even now I am not so sure it was a physiological degradation. She always had the last laugh.

At some point during such retelling, she would realise that she has messed up, or mixed up, or missed out a whole chapter. It was then that she brought up foxes. She would make us listen to the sounds of the night and then blame it on the foxes, on how they took parts of her stories. We were fascinated by the sounds but not impressed by the story theft among humans and foxes.

Now, however, three of us complain on something missing from life. This feeling of being left out, on bits and pieces needed to complete our stories seems to be universal. It makes me think that maybe granma was right, maybe stories are shared.

Somewhere, someone, or maybe more than one, might be having the other parts of our stories.

But then maybe we have all become foxes. Thinking we are too clever to believe in such granma tales that broken up stories devour the weak ones.


Infinite vice

take me to the world of gods and muses
where delectable words are chanted
and drops of nectar from them decanted

the lone syllable thus prayed,
staring at the cliff of decadence.

A misplaced syllable
that had held my attention.

For a moment.

A moment of doubt,

and of revelation.

But I had turned the page. For solace was offered in the name of divine providence. A deference to the symmetry of coherence.

To know that I must take a leap of faith is to be like the tentative sentence. Poised to take flight, at the tip of my mind.

A voice at the end of every breath, suspended midway in an interlude, as I wait forever for an encore.

The dervish now sings of eternal injustice, and every day I dread that my life is no symphony.

That the syllable might speak if I opened the eyes.

So now when I read, I switch off the lights, not just to escape scrutiny from the gods and muses of my infinite vice.


Jokers of this world

There are essentially four types jokers in the world:

  1. those who laugh at their own jokes, before the others do
  2. those who laugh midway when telling a joke, especially just before the punchline
  3. those who laugh even before they start telling the joke, just by thinking about it
  4. those who tell a joke with straight face, don’t laugh with others at the end of it, rather look disinterested.

But do jokers take selfies, you might ask.

Well, you never know.

A good joker survives on surprise factor, so much so that one might take a selfie out of nowhere, just to punchline you.

On the other hand, people taking selfies every day for no reason are jokers in their own right. Even among these, there are four types.

  1. People who take one selfie everyday are the narcissistic jokers.
  2. Two selfies: those who are never sure about their jokes.
  3. Three, to four: when they are insecure, probably desperate.
  4. More than four: when instead of their own material, they blame their audience, and also the phone cameras.

But why selfies, you might still ask.

All I would say to that is good jokers never care about their looks, it’s the content that matters.

Which brings us to distinction between men and women.

There’s a reason why the image of a man appears when you hear the ‘joker’ word. Every man goes through four stages before he becomes a true joker.

  1. Single men with singular thoughts: they keep wondering what women want, what are they thinking and such things.
  2. Single men with second thoughts: When single men fall in love and their girlfriends call up at weird hours to tell what they want, what they are thinking, what they must want, what their friends are thinking, and so on.
  3. The relationship man: Ignoring the second thoughts, the relationship man marches bravely into a relationship, to finally learn what his partner is thinking, what she wants, and why, even without being told.
  4. The reawakened man: With the awareness of everything that was to be known from his woman, it becomes imperative for the reawakened man to start wondering what other women want, what other women are thinking, and so on.

These four stages in the evolution of the joker man doesn’t amuse women, bringing us to the next list in the series.

No, I am not going to write about women. A continuous narrative appeals to the writer, but becomes a drag at the reading end, they say.

With that disclaimer, we come to the finale.

Evolution of a romantic. This has nothing to do with women, or jokers, it’s no joke either.

  1. The romantic amoeba: loves the moon, dusk, rainbows, stares into nothing. Never being able to articulate it, the amoeba never decides on a single form.
  2. Platonic romantic: the amoeba stage goes on till they start meeting people in potentially romantic setups. This triggers an evolution of the formless romantic to a platonic one. These people forfeit what’s available and remain distant in the name of the proverbial knight, or a cinderella [see? this is not just women]
  3. Soulfull romantic: as they adapt to the mundane world around, platonic romantics mature into amateur romance scientists and philosophers. They produce treatises on souls and soulmates, and if encouraged, may even sell you the idea of twinflames. With diagrams.
  4. Full moon romantic: at some point in the lifetime, and due to unknown Darwinian reasons, the soul wielding romantic mutates. They turn into the ace form in romantic evolution. These people live among us, and behave like us, but come the full moon night, or full with alcohol, or filled with blues, the full blown romantics shed their disguise of denial and show the true alien form.

It’s almost always a bad idea to laugh, when that happens.