Sagar, Sleep Walking.
Reluctant lovers are the most despicable thing about humanity. It doesn’t matter what they are reluctant about. Whether in indulging with each other or in exploring the more amorous facets of life that exist outside their realm, if they are reluctant, they bring about the worst versions of each other.
This is not a monograph about whatever that can go wrong in love. This is more about everything that has gone wrong in love. Not in any love story in particular. Those of you who have placed your ears close to my chest shall know. Of all the love stories that have ever been written down, mine is nothing but yet another blip. But most importantly, and just like all the letters that I have written to Tara, my love stories are not about love.
Then pray I tell, what are they about?
Only you can answer! And you, my dearest reader, shall be the only one who will know. The best stories are never written down, they are out there completing themselves. I lay no claim to any immortal quality to my story, but I know one thing for certain. This story, even if I fail to write it down, will somehow escape the confines of my cavity and will make its own way through this world. As I have painfully discovered, I am nothing but a vessel for it to make its presence felt in this world. It may discard me one day, choosing to pursue its course independently. This may very well be what we relate to as the death of an individual. But as someone who has walked the tightrope between death and life many a time, I am predisposed to take this lightly. You are advised to follow course. But people end up doing whatever they want to do. So it goes without saying that you are free to do as you wish.
Today was a peculiar day. I was informed about a death. Not someone I know. But someone very close to someone I know. As convoluted as it may sound, it triggered me into a bout of depression that I couldn’t control. December 2017 is well past, but the loss that it brought to me refuses to go away. People die all the time, and we are helpless about it. Before we know what has happened, or we get a chance to react, people around us make sure that the deceased is well under the soil. For what purpose, I have always wondered.
Funerals never fail to perplex me. There is very little talking that goes around, but every moment is pregnant with communication. I haven’t attended many funerals in my short life. So not all deaths stir memories of funerals inside me. The first recorded memory comes from my distant childhood. An old, but close relative has passed away. I never quite knew who he was. But I remember him frequenting my home. Later, my mother would tell me that he was instrumental in getting my parents married to each other. As unknown this person was to me, I remember standing in front to his dead body, all dressed up. In this world of impossible probabilities, there lied a man who was indirectly responsible for my very existence. I was too young to appreciate that fact, but this image was one of the very few fragments that managed to survive my tumultuous childhood. Well into my adulthood, I will place the jigsaw pieces together and wonder about the profound effects that they had upon me.
It was this event that indelibly etched the smell of a funeral in my memory. Not the vexing smell of embalming fluids or the perfumes that they add to bathwater of the deceased. This was the smell of fresh clay that is dug out of the cemetery. The grand masjid where he was to be buried, had witnessed torrential rainfall the day before. I remember walking through the touch-me-nots that lined the path to burial ground. My eyes were stuck on the raindrops that still lingered. I was a bit disappointed though - the people who walked before me has disturbed the precarious equilibrium of these delicate plants. I lingered on a bit to see them regaining their shape, but they wouldn’t. I moved only after my father urged me to. As the smell of newborn grave made its way to my nostrils, I was taken.
Such amateurish encounters with death prepared me to deal with many more to come. I am not quite dead yet, as I am writing this. But I can sense it close to me. I can feel it hovering around. Its sickening stench is suffocating my breathing space. I cannot move.
Perhaps I am just overthinking. Or exaggerating for the sake of dramatics, but this feeling of death lingering around me has given me a purpose to live. Including the kind of senseless acts that I just finished doing.
No, I haven’t taken poison and sat down to write this. That would be a cynical thought I should pre-empt as you read this. I am too weak to attempt it. But what I have done is far more embarrassing and unbecoming - I followed Fareed and Tara to a cinema screening!
And the movie was La Règle du Jeu by Jean Renoir. Ah, what a wonderful setting to watch this classic! The movie, titled “The Rules of the Game” in English was a pleasure to watch. I was lost in its storytelling, I literally ‘woke up’ from the movie and scrambled to find my way out of the theater. As the auteur went forward with the storyline, I found myself lost in his world. The movie was about the absurdity of love too, amongst other things. But it is said that the director fell in love with the female protagonist. Not quite impossible, in this world of impossible probabilities. Falling in and out of love too soon, I knew enough on how to look at the ‘love story’ portrayed here.
Perhaps, he wanted to give another set of labels to this movie. Or he didn’t want any at all. As Satyajit Ray would remark much later, this is “a film that doesn’t wear its innovations on its sleeve … Humanist? Classical? Avant-Garde? Contemporary? I defy anyone to give it a label. This is the kind of innovation that appeals to me.”
And it appealed to me too. In a much more perverse way.
I was watching it with an audience amongst whom there were only two people I knew. One certainly loved me. The other, perhaps hated me. Or he may have had ambivalent feelings towards me. He effectively knew naught about me. And I knew a lot about him. In fact, I knew more about him than most people in his life. I loved him a bit. Love is perhaps a strong word to use. I sort of like him, for his lots and misfortunes alike. I will come to it soon.
So there it was, by a turn of events, I found myself sitting in the same room and watching this movie with them. This movie, when released for the first time, tanked at the box office. Not only did it fail, but it also attracted such negative views that no amount of reworking from the director will save it. The movie was released in 1939. France in 1939, as many of you might know, was under Nazi attack. And the movie talked about “The rule of the game” - the way society functions and how it handles crisis. Needless to say, the society that rejected it was shattered after the world war. In the world that emerged post war, this movie would be lauded as one of the movies ever made.
And this movie showed me love, disappointment and death. If I can be honest with you, this is the very emotions that run through me as I write this. As I find myself lost at this shore, banging on this keyboard, I wonder if this is how people get great things to write about and make movies on.
I had these kind of thoughts before too, as I stood smoking in front of a shopping complex close to the movie theatre. It sported a cloth shop for kids. They had named in “Merry kids”, which made me even more depressed. There, carefully dressed mannequins wore cloth for children under five years. Their faceless heads bore an expression of ominousness. They were brightly lit, still I couldn’t stomach the fact that their eyes were invisible. Not just eyes, but they had no noses or lips. Or anything that makes them human. The plastic bodies with well worn clothes when many kids cannot wear anything - it reminded me of the sorry state of affairs around us. For the kind of life I live, it is not befitting of me to loathe consumerism. Mindless purchases, especially books, have helped me survive many attacks of depression, but at this juncture, I cannot all but despair about the state of callous mess that we are in. This was the kind of idea that Jean Renoir wanted us to take away from the movie theatre. And so I did, as I watched my beloved in the hands of someone she loved.
I find it so silly to be writing about this here. The rules of the game was always clear to me. Even when me and Tara walked our difficult stories that got hopelessly intertwined by the chances of fate, I always knew that my heart will be broken. Even if it isn’t broken yet, it will break at some point of time. But looking at this woman I have loved with the whole of my heart was one of the most painful things I have ever done. Even when storms were raging inside me, threatening to uproot me, I stood my ground. After all, it is not like Tara has cheated on me. She was painfully honest in this whole business. I insisted on it too. I knew about all these. She had told me about the show and expected me not to come. But I refuse to observe that basic decency, and got my heart broken in return.
But to be honest, my heart isn’t that broken after all. In fact, as I sit here writing about it, I feel much better. Writing is indeed the best catharsis, as I have told many a times before. I can only wonder, what kind of a mess that I have gotten myself into! The movie was perhaps reminding me of the rules of the game. And my utter inability to break or tweak it.
Fareed and Tara, most certainly saw me. I assumed that I was wearing an invisible cloak. I just pretended that nobody could see me. Even in the darkness of the theatre, I was utterly convinced of this universal truth. That I am invisible. Tara and Fareed will never see me. No matter what I do. Still, I stayed low key and walked away from the theatre. But I had to come back to get my bike because I had parked it close to the theatre. I waited for them to leave, in the meantime finding some time to smoke. It was there that I saw the “Merry Kids”, deepening my depression and ruining my already fragile mental balance. The temple nearby, or the hasty traffic around me, would provide any solace. I somehow counted the seconds and went to the parking lot to get my bike.
It was there that I saw them hand in hand. They could have been kissing, but I wouldn’t know. I had no courage to look at them, but Tara most certainly saw me. I started the bike and slowly drove away. I expected her to call me back, but she didn’t. After all, how could she!
After I got out of the parking lot, I found myself speeding through the city. I wondered if this was the last time she’ll see me. Perhaps that’s the right thing to do. I should just walk away from them. I should respect the rules of the game. I honestly don’t know what I should tell Tara. What I should tell myself is equally unknown. In this world of impossible probabilities, perhaps I will find a solution. Of what happened later, I will tell you if we are to meet again. But this writing has certainly relieved me of my pain. You’d know better because you have your ears close to my chest as I narrate this. Only you’ll know because I can never tell this story to anyone else.
~ An excerpt from Sagar’s personal diary that I found.