Don't be a feelings whore.

Too much is written about sex and too little about feelings. Sex is easy. And most of us know exactly what we're getting into when we do it with no strings attached. But what really leaves you feeling used is when you whore your feelings for someone who never deserved it in the first place. Using people emotionally without contributing much in return - that's the real tragedy of our times. Sorry, but that can never happen with 'mutual' consent, unless you happen to be a masochist.

Yes, you desperately want to find your soulmate and fall in love. But that doesn't mean you allow every man/woman who shows you the least bit of interest to take over your soul. Let the right one in. Have standards. Don't be easy. And certainly don't mistake choosiness for selfishness. When it comes to caring about someone, it's good to be selfish. Not everyone deserves a place in your thoughts. Not everyone deserves to be included in your prayers. Let people earn that place, the way you earn one in their lives.

Be polite. Be approachable, even. But don't let the floodgates of your heart open at the first sign of attention. Don't start dreaming the second you sense a connection with someone. Because people are rarely what they seem at first. People are always different when they're in 'chase' mode. That carefully built persona of charm and humour rapidly falls apart when they realise that you've given them your heart.

You will be tempted to play counsellor when someone comes to you with their issues, because let's face it. Solving another person's problems makes you feel so good about yourself. It makes you feel valued and it buoys your self-esteem like nothing else can. But if you start believing that they care for you in return, then you may be setting yourself up for an enormous disappointment. Because most people are unapologetically self-centred. They love you for what they get from you. They don't care two hoots about who you really are or what you want from life. That can only happen when you're attuned to each other as equals - not as patient and counsellor or victim and saviour.

Don't whore your feelings. Because it's no fun to have your emotions raped and blown to smithereens. It's no fun to be taken for granted and discarded once you've pulled someone up from the dumps. It's no fun to invest so much of your time, thoughts and affection, only to realise that there is zero gratitude on the other end. Guard your feelings, if you will. Don't hide behind your barriers but don't be an open book either. Don't be a magnet for negative people, because they'll never be able to give you anything in return.

(This post is not directed towards any particular person. It is merely an account of my feelings at one point in time.)

The blink of an eye..that's all it took for love to pass me by.

The more fleeting your encounter with a person, an idea or a place, the more magical and meaningful that experience is. That seemed to be the common message woven within the storylines of Midnight in Paris and Before Sunrise.

Perhaps it was fortuitous that I watched both films on consecutive days. In Midnight in Paris, we have the protagonist falling for a woman from another era. They share a single kiss and in that moment, he feels immortal. It is the kind of magic he has never experienced with his fiancee. On the other hand, the protagonists of Before Sunrise have but a single day and night together, before they must part ways. Both films were immensely beautiful and both reiterated the charm of a transient love. The word 'love' does not make an appearance in either relationship but the viewer is aware that they are soulmates. Though I was charmed by these stories, they set me thinking. Why is it that the epic love stories are always tragedies or transient encounters? Is it that a lifelong romance is too mundane and too riddled with familiar roadblocks to make it to the pages of a magnum opus?

There is an element of truth in the conversations that Jesse and Celine have in Before Sunrise. They talk about how relationships go downhill when they last too long. The things you once found endearing about the other person begin to grate on your nerves, says Jesse. Is that true? I have never had a romantic relationship that lasted longer than two years. But I've known several people for much longer than that and I don't love them any less than I did when I first befriended them. We can discount family from this discussion because those are ties wrought by genetics, interdependence and bonding that can never compare to voluntary relationships.

Applying the same logic to moments, I recall the time when I breakfasted at Le Cafe in Pondicherry, with the sea glittering behind my back and my hair blowing in the breeze. If I shut my eyes, I can experience the serenity and the bliss I felt then, with crystal clarity. But how was that moment any superior to the one I am experiencing now? This moment where I sit cross-legged on my bed, with the sun streaming in and these words pouring out of consciousness? What makes some encounters and experiences more special than the others? I believe it is just the connotation we attach to them that makes them more memorable than the rest. That, and the intoxication of knowing that those moments may not return and those people may not be encountered again.

The certainty of seeing my mother in the kitchen each morning, of brushing my teeth and walking down the street outside my house somehow diminishes their charm. Or at least, that's what I glean from several films and novels. I beg to differ, though. In fact, I differ with complete conviction and defiance! I believe that every encounter, every relationship and every moment can be infused with the magic reserved to 'once-in-a-lifetime' occurrences. All it takes is a little imagination. A little attention to detail. A small pause. And the sudden realisation that you simply adore the person you are with. The ground you're standing on. The air you're breathing. And the life you're living. :)

The Girl Who Died Next Door - 8

My car heaved and lurched as it raced over pothole-ridden roads. The good thing about these jolts was their democratic nature. Young or old, famous or nondescript, every single soul in cars, on bikes and in buses rose and fell rhythmically with the road’s ups and downs. Idly, I wished I could capture them mid-motion, in a photograph. People gazing rapturously down at their phones, people with their noses pressed to their windows, people with arms and dupattas dangling outside autos and people with handkerchiefs pressed to their noses to insulate from the smoke. “Do you enjoy photography?” I asked Shayan, who sat with his hands crossed in his lap, the picture of docile obedience. “Not really.” “Why not? Aren’t art and photography closely related to each other?” I persisted. His hands uncrossed themselves and a glitter appeared in his eye. “There is a fundamental difference between the two,” he said earnestly, leaning towards me while I continued to deny him, peering at the traffic instead. “Art can never be duplicated. Yes, we have excellent forgeries but there will always be a flaw somewhere, tiny though it may be. But with photography, it is possible to duplicate a picture with the very same composition and time of the day.” I smirked. Shayan was starting to become predictable now. “So you’re saying that visual art is superior to photography. All artistes believe their discipline is superior to everything else – be they photographers, painters or musicians,” I remarked. He shrugged. “I don’t know about that. But I do know that my work has to be exclusive.” I took the car a few inches ahead. “You discount too much. There are so many technicalities involved in photography. I’m sure a professional will be able to provide many counter-arguments.” Being an amateur photographer, I was aware of terms like shutter and aperture but I knew better than to expound on their intricacies.


There is no particular trait common to all camera-friendly individuals. Television anchors may be extroverts, introverts, aggressive or peaceful people. But none of that matters when the director gives his cue. So I had no way of predicting the sort of relationship Shayan would develop with the camera. “Were you aware of the events that led to flat 103’s owners moving out when you rented it?” Oddly, I felt as though I was in a courtroom. We waited to see how the witness would respond. “No, I was not. I was in a hurry to find a suitable flat and this one sounded perfect. I was hardly inclined to ask the owners why they moved out.” He could have been talking to me on his couch, a mug of coffee cradled in his hands. We had hit the jackpot. Shayan was that rare commodity who was totally oblivious to the camera. “So you think that tragedies should have no impact over the value of real estate?” I stayed out of the frame, this being a byte and not a full-fledged interview. Shayan shrugged. “I don’t really have an opinion. But I do believe that every place has its own vibe. If you like it, then you choose the house. If not, you don’t. That, coupled with practical factors like location and size make the decision for you.” I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to use that. It sounded too whimsical. But personally, I agreed with Shayan. I asked him to stay for lunch but he declined, as I had known he would. “Shayan,” I said suddenly when he was about to descend the staircase. “Thank you.” We stood there, a few feet apart, our eyes entwined in a smile. It was a good moment.

One Saturday evening, I woke up from a disturbed afternoon nap to find that I had slept through my jogging time. Hurriedly, I pulled on the Nike pants and sports bra that made me feel particularly sexy. I opened the door and found two ghosts staring me right in the eye. “Mr and Mrs Ganguly,” I said at last. They looked tired and gaunt, as though the sun denied them its daily lustre. “What a surprise,” I added, unable to prefix the surprise with ‘pleasant’. Mrs Ganguly’s face twisted into a parody of a smile. “We thought we’d collect this month’s rent in person; see how things were faring around here,” she explained. I wondered if they had seen Shayan’s paintings of their dead daughter. “No one is answering the door though. Do you know where Shayan is?” Mr Ganguly asked. I was relieved. I didn’t think their weary spirits could bear another shock. “I’m sorry, I have no idea. Would you like to come in for some tea?” I hoped they would refuse my offer. The Gangulys were nice enough people but after those unsettling dreams, I needed the release of a good run. And then it occurred to me that perhaps Suvarna was haunting their psyche too. So I held the door wide open and allowed the Gangulys to walk in. “Please make yourself comfortable,” I said mechanically. I brewed the tea in my kitchen, wondering if Mrs Ganguly noticed the peeling walls or the way the sunrays filtered through my curtains. I imagined them looking into the distance vacantly, each lost in their own memories. I had an overactive imagination. The tea came to a boil.

“We were lucky to find a tenant for this flat despite...” Of course he couldn’t complete the sentence. “Suvarna’s death?” I wanted to say cruelly. After all, they had conveniently left it out while leasing the flat to Shayan. But instead, I smiled. “It’s nice to have a neighbour again.” I wondered how to broach the subject of Suvarna’s haunting. Were the Gangulys superstitious? ‘Aren’t all Indians?’ my alter ego smirked back at me. “There’s something I wanted to talk to you about,” I began with a deep breath. “Do you sometimes feel like you can sense Suvarna’s presence? In your dreams perhaps?” Mrs Ganguly gasped. “What are you talking about?” her husband asked, sounding a tad defensive. “I dream about her,” I admitted. And then I noticed that Mrs Ganguly had begun sobbing. Her husband noticed at the same time. “Look what you’ve done!” The man was furious. This wasn’t going well at all. “I’m sor...” I began but they were already leaving. “We should never have come back here,” Mr Ganguly snarled before banging the door into my face. My door, in fact. I wasn’t any closer to solving the mystery of Suvarna’s haunting. But I had spared the Gangulys the trauma of witnessing their daughter age on canvas. At least, that’s how I rationalised Mrs Ganguly’s tears away. 

(To be continued)