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Shards of My Naked Self
by Chenab Guha
(Kolkata, West Bengal, India)

‘On my silent days, I miss you a little louder.’

-       RAHIL KHAN

‘I grow quiet, when there are,

Too many things I’m trying to say,

I see you and what I know of words



‘abhi na jaao chodkar, ke dil abhi bhara nahi...’playing softly on some old yet treasured, creaking yet well oiled – (an attempt to hold on to what’s old but not forgotten), gramophone, the smell of white lilies, the world in black as I’ve only ever seen it (bright colours never did seem appealing), a  bittersweet nostalgia creeping in; a fearful, intimidating sense of déjà vu, his  smile growing wan in the chest of memories, an effort to remember the etches, the curves of his jaw as the ever mesmerised eyes had taken them in ...and my eyelids shut tight till then, open just as suddenly looking around in a daze. I wake up. I have been sleeping for way too long.

I hit the pause button on my retro playlist before ‘ajeeb dastan hain yeh’ can start meddling with the ever aching heart. It’s time to sit and contemplate, it’s time to exercise the only ever coping mechanism I’ve ever known-bleeding but on paper, satisfying the masochist at heart - witnessing the blood trickling down rich and scarlet forming their own words, their own language. Yes they were right when they said  who ever needed a dictionary if one could freely converse with their heart. I have heard it’s the nightly hour, when all is quiet that a writer can gauge the vibrations of the vast, unbearably loud silences, it is in fact those 3 am thoughts that  make me look into this soul which in Bukowski’s words is the only thing that matters and to find only void and a shapeless, formless, timeless pang seamlessly floating about. Yes it is in these moments that I confront my heart, it is in these moments that I finally as Sylvia Plath would have said stop ricocheting between uncertainties and doubts.

I have forever wondered how those people who cannot write live, how do they express a heartbreak, how do they express the immaculate grief. The answer remains: they take up weapons- guns, while we take up pens. The escapes we are seeking might be different, the amount of fucked up we are, aren’t. It’s a scary thing to feel so deeply in a world where you are judged based on the ever changing hipster trends of the society, your age, your gender, your exposure and well, your existence. To me, a 16 year old can feel and should be allowed to let the emotions flow, just as an eighty year old back in her day wasn’t allowed to know her own heart and then with time, she just gave up trying to live and not merely exist.

We are all shadows of people we have met, the reflections of all the impacts humanity has had on us-both  significant and insignificant. I want to be my grandmother’s smile when she talks about my deceased grandfather relishing her ‘maach er jhol’ trying so hard to conceal how smitten she was by him forever, but I don’t want to be her tears regretting why she never told him how ardently she admired him when she had the chance. I want to be all that my mother never could be but made herself believe she wants to live, through her daughter. But I also don’t want to become the threshold of her unfulfilled, unsatiated, never realised dreams. I want to be my father’s twinkling eyes when he looks at my mother secretly waiting for his daughters to grow up and take flight so that he can finally start growing up and then growing old with the woman he’s been in love with since he was just a boy, with the woman who is not merely a mother to his children. But I don’t want to become a mirror reflecting my father’s failures, his regrets and his occasional  ‘I wish I had a time machine’ sighs. I want to be the books a scrawny teenager bought for his girlfriend because she seemed to like nothing else, I want to be the poem he could never decipher, the song which he thought he knew the tune of, but never the words to. But I don’t want to be the ‘what ifs’ haunting the girl reaching the airport a bit too late only to find the person who had made a million butterflies come alive in her stomach and in her heart, had boarded the flight, I don’t want to be the heaviness and the unsaid words and the highly thought about but never voiced confessions the girl carries with her as she pushes past the milling crowds, lost.

Let me write down another train of thought as it clouds over my mind bathing me in a sense of retrospection. When we say we will forever ‘love’ a person, will forever ‘miss’ a person, what do we actually mean. I think it is an attempt to console the heart letting it bask in a sense of glory at hurting for someone who never did fulfil your Jane Austen love story manifestations. What is heartache and heartbreak – it’s a pathetic attempt to romanticise the mere sense of astonishment and bewilderment at how someone could let you down, someone you had again, put on a highly ornamented pedestal. What is after all ‘not being able to get over a person’ – it is a desperation to hold on to the memories which are often a manifestation of what one wanted and thought was experiencing, when in reality all it ever was something as monotonous as an endlessly droning lecture, as mundane as a Monday. What is love if not an assurance that our hearts have been giving in the broken, shattered stories. Crying over at having lost that seemingly powerful love is nothing but nursing the hurt ego and if I may very scandalously suggest, a very satisfying pain that makes its brooding presence known everywhere. Or maybe its just the masochist in me speaking again.  

I find myself asking whether love is what is felt in certain incandescent moments and not for people. Is love in a couple coming home after a tiring day, eating dinner together with mere ‘hmmms’ and ‘ohs’ exchanged between them, making slow  love to each other in the dead of the night and going back to sleep smiling ready to face another mundane Monday having each other as what one would call-collateral securities. Is love my mother saving me my favourite shondesh and keeping it away from the prying eyes of others and then flaunting it in front of me with glee. Is love me looking over at my mother sitting alone in her place of comfort-her kitchen and making my way over to her with the quintessential ‘what’s for lunch today, maa?’ and listening to her explain to me how she excelled at bargaining and outdid  herself at the bazaar that day, instead of silently retreating to my room. Is love my father waiting up for me as I study late into the night, pretending to be very conveniently  in his words an ‘insomniac’ .. or is it me listening to him speak about his professional achievements and adding to his sense of joy with my questions.. is it me keeping my sister’s secrets or is it her not telling on me even after knowing about a particular high school sweetheart. Is love my best friends trying to protect me from the hurt, sometimes driving me crazy but mostly telling me I belong somewhere, I am needed. Is love a couple celebrating their 50 th anniversary and still not knowing each other’s favourite shades, or is that just a habit of 50 years of seeing sunrises and sunsets together but through different perspectives, never shared with the other. Are these forms of affection we share and claim to live for -  ‘love’ or is this just how we’ve been conditioned to behave and be. Is love feeling so much of passion for one person who challenges you, makes you taste something you’ve never tasted before, almost like a drug making you risk everything you’ve worked so hard to achieve including yourself. Is love in conversations we have about sex, life, art, poetry with people we might never even meet again and yet never say goodbye to. Is love in treating yourself to coffee and a cheesecake watching two lovers holding hands in a coffee shop as rain pitter patters against the glass doors and windows. Is love completely losing control, not knowing reason and fifteen seconds of insanity only to be regretted forevermore. No one could ever say, no matter how heavy their words were or how pretty their sentences.

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