Fleeting Little Phenomenon

Art by: David Ng

“Aren’t you angry,” you asked “that we met only now, and we already have to say goodbye?”

I would have been grateful for even one day. For even the blink of an eye. Shooting stars and meteor showers are fleeting, too. Should we be angry that they couldn’t last longer? And yet, with these goodbyes, it’s so hard to focus. All I can think about are all the hellos they will bring with them. We have too little time to be upset. Whether it is a week or 60 years. It will never be enough time. Only infinity would ever satisfy us.

Am I angry? I haven’t given myself time to be.

It’s so rare, this. I can’t complain. My days are filled with thank yous to the Universe.

It is paradoxical, too.

That there will never be enough time. And yet however much of it we will get will be enough. Because this, this is like a comet we could have never caught at all. Something that only happens every hundred or thousand years. The requirements for this to happen were something along the lines of: to have been born on a Sunday at 13:03:56, gone to 3 different high schools, have had a friend called Dudley, seen a peacock every 2.5 years, worn green every other Tuesday, taken the bus 156 times a year and hated watermelon for half your life. If even one day had happened differently, could you honestly say life would have happened the same?

This thing we have is as beautiful as a meteor shower. And how lucky we are to have caught it. How lucky we are, that we do not have to spend the rest of our lives wondering.

Note: Ahhh, today is the last day. This is Day 30 of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. I wanted to end on something that said: “Ends are beginnings”. I’ve strayed a little from the intended goal, but I hope you liked it and that you’ve been enjoying these 30 days of writing. It’s certainly helped me understand my writing better. And with this, I guess this is the end of NaNoWriMo this year. Who knows, maybe next year…


A Silence of Intense Thoughts

“It was always a pause, and then the silence of intense thoughts that crossed the room, the sounds of minds opening, being filled not with words, but with the emotion in between them, brimming not with verse and lyricism, but with memories of their beauty, their rhythm that sounded like music”

Art by: Pascal Campion

When I first studied literature and poetry, I was struck by the intentional silence left in between sentences and stanzas that were read out loud. The teacher was giving us a moment to contemplate, to wonder, to pin down a feeling, or capture a thought process, to appreciate it within a larger context, making us question whether any one thing was truly random or whether it all connected into another sub-layer of meaning.

It was always a pause, and then the silence of intense thoughts that crossed the room, the sounds of minds opening, being filled not with words, but with the emotion in between them, brimming not with verse and lyricism, but with memories of their beauty, their rhythm that sounded like music. And I like to think, even with the indescribable essence of a novel or poem that is not the same for any one person.

We broke down stories into parts, then parts into chapters, chapters into passages. Passages into paragraphs, paragraphs into lines, lines into a sentence. And further even, sentences into words and silences. Quietly, we filled the blanks in between the words with deeper meaning wrought from our own experiences. We wrote our lives in all the stories we read, in all the verse we learnt. To read is not passive; we use our own lives to  understand that of others’. We create silences to fill with the unknown.

And that silence, that is when I would stop being in a classroom, wearing an ill-fitting uniform, just a name among so many others. On the outskirts of fiction and reality, there would exist, for a few stretches of silence, a complex world that would perish at the first word spoken.

Note: This is Day 29 (Already!) of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. Tomorrow’s the last day, so I hope you’ve been enjoying it. Meanwhile, you can check out the entry for Day 27 here 🙂

Le Mal Du Pays

Art by: Ree

In that dark room, with the curtains drawn, there is only the artificial light of the TV to illuminate my face. My hair, this wild bushiness, has sprung free and is twirling in all directions, wanting, like me, to go everywhere all at once. The result is the same whether it’s about hair or personal decisions: it’s a mess. There is sweat running down my neck, droplets of it prickling my back. There are mosquito bites too, adorning my arms. In the silence, tendrils of Liszt’s “Le Mal Du Pays” played by Berman travels through the night. The world suddenly feels very small, confined to this one dimly-lit room. I like the music better now, the second time around. This time, I feel it. Like I feel the heat trapped in between my skin and the cotton of my clothes. “Le Mal Du Pays” huh? Homesickness. I don’t know where I am homesick for. I feel I have never been there. Only once, vividly, in dreams. But there is no proof. That there is home somewhere. That I even had the dream—maybe I conjured the thought from my imagination. There is only this: this feeling that argues against everything. This feeling that will not be silenced, will not be stuffed even in this tiny, closed-up room, even in this darkness. Of all the music I could have chosen, it had to be “Le Mal Du Pays”, that too, when I am someplace many would call home.

Note: As promised, this is the entry for Day 27 of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can read the entry for the previous day here 🙂

All These Lights

“Then, a fragment of the universe that was rekindled many years ago today, a star that found home in between the ribs of a frail, crying body.”

Gif by: Hajin Bae

Today was born a day of lights.

First the sun that stretched and stretched on its tippy toes, waiting to be picked up by the stratosphere and held up high. I swear I heard, at least once, giggles coming from the sky.

Then, a fragment of the universe that was rekindled many years ago today, a star that found home in between the ribs of a frail, crying body.

There were the fairy lights from the neighbours’, blinking owlishly in the night like new-born stars. Then, the green glare of two projectors, that, for one out-of-body moment, made me feel like I was Gatsby, looking across the water, gazing at that green light intently, captivated by it even with a whole firmament alight before me.

Then later still, in the cool, blue night air, city lights. Blurry and soft, so unlike the harshness of the suburbs by day. And so very still, yet so alive. It was…good to see the world look so small, to be disentangled from the city. And it’s good, just good in so many ways, to be somewhere with soft lights that you know will shine through the night.

And then, the most brilliant of all. The light in my mother’s eyes as she congratulates me on yet another trip around the sun.

Finally, the light that burns on shyly, hidden in my chest.

Note: This is Day 28 of my little NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. Where’s Day 27 you ask? I’m still editing it >.< It’s proving to be one of the tougher things to write, but I am not giving up. Day 27 will be posted, tomorrow probably. Meanwhile, you can check out some of the entries from the days before, like this one from Day 25.

“Oh, après tout, pourquoi pas?”

” Breakfast was going to be cold milk and chocolate cereals, and I felt I could pass. Besides, anytime someone has milk and sugary cereals for breakfast (at 11, of all times) a dietitian dies or feels extremely offended without knowing why. So why not have no breakfast at all? It’s probably not a good idea to go into a heated kitchen without eating breakfast, but I’ve woken up at nearly 11, who’s saying I know anything about good decision-making? “

Gif from Alice in Wonderland

I woke up at 10:45 today.

By the time I started thinking about breakfast, my aunt called. She was going to make roti today, an indian sort of pancake. But not just any kind, no. Today, she was going to outdo herself. Today was going to be the Roti Olympics, the Tour de France, the Superbowl. Breakfast was going to be cold milk and chocolate cereals, and I felt I could pass. Besides, every time someone has milk and sugary cereals as breakfast (at 11, of all times) a dietitian dies or feels extremely offended without knowing why. So why not have no breakfast at all? It’s probably not a good idea to go into a heated kitchen without eating breakfast, but I’ve woken up at nearly 11, so who’s saying I know anything about good decision-making?

So I pull on some clothes, stuff that unruly hair in a semblance of a bun and glide down the streets, staring down anyone who dares look my way because I’m also not a morning person.

My aunt, or rather, one of my aunts, is well beyond 70, carefully reaching for that octogenarian status, the way a patient hand plucks a berry from a vine. You would never be able to tell though; she does not look a day over 50. Her eyes twinkle, as they always have and her face is smooth, lacking any deep wrinkles. But it is her energy for life that will leave you disbelieving. It’s something I don’t even have. More often than not, she is out of the house, going to some charity event or organising little gatherings with friends.

“Today,” she tells me “I’m doing it. I am making that layered roti.” She says with such glee, because she’s already started and it’s looking to be one of her best attempts yet.

Soon enough, my hands and shirt are covered in flour. We are rolling out dough balls so soft, so freaking soft that I cannot fathom what sort of witchcraft must have gone on to make that possible. Roll it out the thinnest you can, she says in that tone of the teacher she used to be, because we are going to do some magic. It turns out, after we are done sprinkling flour and glazing with purified butter, that we are fixing two of the stretched out dough pieces back-to-back and then folding them into layers, the way you fold an origami fan. Then when you have the folded dough, you roll it into a circle and watch as the layers form countless ridges that you can feel even when the dough is again rolled out.

It feels like you’re rolling time away, tucking seconds into seconds, stacking minute upon minute. It is work so detailed and delicate that even Time helps you out and slows down a little. As though it is also waiting with bated breath, pushing back the hand on the clock, hushing it, saying: “Oh hold on now! What’s the hurry—let me see what’s going on.”

Now that the dough has been rolled out again into its final form (In other words, frighteningly round), I run my finger over the ridges left between the layers. It’s calming and hypnotic, just running your finger around this soft mound, tracing the contour the way you would trace patterns in the sand. It’s effortless yet amazingly satisfying, the kind of simple thing that makes you appreciate being alive.

This time around, my aunt is making roti. But the time before, it was Baklava, before that it was Wonton soup, and before that it was Quatre-Quarts, which is, for all intents and purposes pound cake. But many of our cakes here tend to be French, even though we have a certain appreciation for all things British. But it’s mostly, I think, because we’ve picked up on the French way of being all : “Oh, après tout, pourquoi pas…” (Oh, after all, why not…) , that sense of indulgence that makes you reach for another piece of cake when you know you shouldn’t. La gourmandise, they call it, un petit pĂ©chĂ© mignon (literally, a cute sin). Yes, we are the kind of people who think that if you are eating a piece of cake and feel guilty, that you’re doing something wrong somewhere. How many times have we said: “Oh, après tout…”, giving up on diets just to enjoy a sweet, milky cup of tea with family and friends, colleagues even? How many times have we said : “Eat now, diet later”? And oh, all the times we get laughed at when we get back from the doctor’s with strict diet rules AND NO CHEATING THIS TIME. But we can’t help it mostly, we’re hobbits for crying out loud.

Although that’s something I love seeing. Rotund people. People who look like they just got married and have put on weight. You know, round, rosy cheeks, arms that turn soft and a little pudgy. On men, you see it especially well when they insist on wearing slim-fit shirts. You can see some of the buttons really struggling to keep it together, but the man wearing the shirt couldn’t care less because he’s well-fed and glowing, and still thinking about the dinner from yesterday. It’s never too much weight really, just enough that it spills over, like when you pour batter into a cupcake paper liner and it overflows just slightly, to everyone’s delight. I like calling this phenomenon The Weight of Happiness. Like you have too much happiness and some of it just had to go somewhere, you know? You are happy, so you eat. Or you eat and you become happy. University has made me all sallow-cheeked though and my hobbit family is constantly trying to feed me.

The rotis are still frying on the pan, so I let my eyes wander. The kitchen is a world of its own, a laboratory full of ongoing projects. There’s half a coconut lying on the marble counter, more cartons of fresh eggs than any one person strictly needs, a macaron recipe tacked to the fridge, fruits waiting to be pressed, bananas hanging out with oranges and a bag of semolina. A strange herbal tea concoction is steaming by the sink, as though that were normal. There are herbs drying by the open window, sunlight pouring over green glass bottles in which unidentified fruits and vegetables are slowly pickling. And the sunlight on the dark green glass is creating delightfully enigmatic patterns of light against the tiled kitchen wall.

Outside, it seems Time also went all: “Oh, après tout, pourquoi pas?” today and is swaying on a hammock on the beach somewhere. Or at least, that’s what it feels like when you see the tall sun-stained plants with their red leaves turned pink in the light. The ferns and some other vine are hanging down from the slightly rusty shelf affixed on the stone wall. The wind is blowing, all sweet-tempered and reverent, rustling the leaves gently, entrancingly, almost lulling the garden to sleep, sprinkling sunlight on it, rocking it like an infant, singing it a lullaby so that it may finally dream.

The roti, it turns out, is everything you would want anything to be. The crust, a thin layer that cracks under your teeth, gives way to the most pillowy texture, something so dangerously soft I am now absolutely certain sorcery was involved in the making. Because the first bite melted in my mouth like sugar in warm milk, I have to take another and another until there is nothing left and I am eyeing another.

Oh, après tout, pourquoi pas?


Note: This is Day 26 (O.O) of my NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can find the entry (which is quickly turning out to be my favourite one) for the previous day here. We also totally made flan today, and the entire day was busy and slow and too warm and amazing, but this is already the longest post I’ve made. If I were to write about the whole day, you’d easily be reading this until tomorrow.

Starry Complexities

“We could whisper to the stars and tell them what happened to other stars, billions of years ago, tell them how they shattered and turned into people. Do you wonder if stars tell their children that when you die, you become a human? A faraway life, on a small blue planet. “

Art by: LuviiiLove

I can already imagine it, with starry complexity. We will linger at the space station, floating around to haunting piano music softly diffusing across the universe, echoing down lonely black holes and asteroid fields. We’ll hang the clothes to dry on one of Saturn’s rings. On Saturdays (Or however we decide to name it) we’ll have barbecues on the sun and plant artificial roses on dwarf planets and dying stars for a pilot whose plane has crashed to find someday. We’ll pluck stars from space and rearrange the cosmos, play tennis with asteroids and write messages with our fingers across nebulae for Earth to see.

We can hide on the moon, sometime. Lie down in the sea of tranquility and tell corny jokes about how we aimed for the moon. We can close our eyes and move to the dark side, and pretend Earth doesn’t exist. We’ll live out our days in an alcove on a planet no one will ever discover.

We’ll make paperboats, watch them sail and burn in a constellation of stars. We could even reach inside one of them, our hands travelling all the way to the molten core, and touch someone’s consciousness. We could whisper to the stars and tell them what happened to other stars, billions of years ago, tell them how they shattered and turned into people. Do you wonder if stars tell their children that when you die, you become a human? A faraway life, on a small blue planet. So, children if you want to say hi, all you have to do is shine bright and they will know who you are? I wonder if humans are star-ghosts?

We could also hollow out one of the planets, and make home inside.

Trust me, we will never get lost. I have the universe inside of me. Did you know that there are more synapses in the human brain than there are stars in our Milky Way? And there are more possible brain connectivity patterns than there are atoms in the Universe? Our minds are larger and more infinite than the Universe. We are multitudes, eternal matter in perishable bodies.

“When we die,” you ask “do you think we go back to being stars? Do you think that some part of us goes into space? Like, the parts that used to be our eyes, when they rot and become dirt and minerals in the Earth, then feed a tree that later gets turned into wood brought on a spaceship—do you think I could see the universe then? Do you think I could get to be a part of it then? That I will be welcomed, like a missing limb, and I will finally remember? And slowly, like that, the Universe will start being whole again.”

“But you’ll forget me then, you’ll forget Earth.” I say.

“Not if you come with me.” you smile “Then we’ll forget about the lives we had here. But it’s okay, because you and I, we go way back, we were stars together. Then, we can remember who we were meant to be all along.”

Listening to:

Note: This is Day 25 of my NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. I’m afraid with this one, I totally pretended like Science wasn’t a real thing. Don’t shove your hands down molten cores of stars, kids. You’ll be dead before you even get to try. You can read my previous entry for the challenge here. Also, ‘more infinite’ isn’t…really a thing. But eh, dramatics amirite.


…Never Made A Skillful Sailor (2/2)


Huebucket bicycle5
Art by: Huebucket

At this point, you either black out or you are paralysed.

Either way, no one starts gracefully. We all gasp for air, our throats seized with panic at first, our arms and legs kicking in fear. Ironically, we act like fish out of the water, thrashing around, wrestling the elements. Submerged in bills, decisions, appointments that you don’t know how to handle.

As you awaken the next day, tossed and turned around, nebulous like the froth of the sea, it dawns on you that for a long, long while, it will be just you. You and this vast, endless world. Temperamental, smooth, deep, calm and yet strong, this is what you’re up against. So deep it is that your feet never touch the ground. You are constantly out of your depths. There is nothing that has been as hard, ever. You are trying, heartbeat after heartbeat, to just stay alive. It becomes exhausting to live like this. So you stop trying. You find out that you can just lay back and let these waters take you wherever they will. For a while, that is life. You let yourself get drunk and seduced by weightlessness, over and over.

You do not care, you have no spirit left in you. Until the ocean turns inclement and it takes you by surprise as though you’d forgotten how it could be. Its waters turn you over, swallow you, crash in on you wave upon wave, and your body fights with a vigour you thought you had lost. You wake up one day, sober,your head feeling like an egg that has been cracked open. ‘What am I doing with my life?’

Sometime after, as the ocean is calm again, you meet some other soul. Thrown off a boat, haggard and famished like you. Under normal circumstances, you would have never cared for them. But now you are inexplicably linked, to the end of your days. Because right now, anyone will do.

Little by little, you learn together to hold your breath longer. You learn when to go with the ocean’s tides and when to swim against currents. You are learning that while you cannot find consistency in something this wild, you can learn the ways in which it is unpredictable. You learn to breathe again, to handle the tides, wave after wave. And if you’re drowning again, there’s someone who’ll save you.

By then, you keep meeting others like you. Drifting towards you like lost souls. Soon, with knowledge and the many people by your side, the untamable ocean just becomes life. With ups and downs, and storms that you have learned to weather. And one day you might have a ship of your own and someone to make walk the plank…

Note: This is Day 24 (!!!) of my NaNoWriMo Writing Challenge. You can find the previous part for this story here. Short stories (Or just stories) are not really my forte, so if you have any constructive criticism, let me know 🙂