Saturday, May 01, 2010

In memorium

This is unlikely for a relationship that goes back 14 years now, but I remember the first time I saw you: MAIS orientation. "I'm Joseph, from Joseph's." Was that an introduction? A challenge? A confrontation?

More distinctive behaviour at the Fresher's Party that followed. In between the haze of adolescent bodies encountering each other for the first time - in the dark, with alcohol - someone was seated firmly on the kitchen floor, declaring his only interests lay in "God, and books".

The next two years are a haze, and then I can pick up the strands at the start of college, when we were armed with new email ids, ready to spread our thoughts into the world. We started exchanging poetry, you and I. We discovered so many poets together. Thank you especially for the joys of Beat poetry - eighteen was a great age to pretend being Ginsburg in. You read Donne for class too, didn't you? And oh, we loved

'This is just to say'

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast.

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold.

by William Carlos Williams.
And then we discovered haikus and I wrote you one and then you sent it around and for years later people asked if I was the "haiku girl" :)

I don't even remember when one email a day became two and then three and then... soon we seemed to know the details of each other's everyday lives. Cambridge-Bombay on a weak internet link and long phone-card conversations, preceded by the shout down the hostel corridor "Hemaaaangini, phone call!" and then, hand-cupped over receiver, "I think it's Joseph!"

In retrospect it's easy to remember the warmth and the sunshine, but I recently heard that a strong relationship is not necessarily one that has had no conflict; it might be one that survives a lot of conflict. And I remember the fights, the bitterness, the accusations and hurt of those two years. As I remember the crazy highs.

Visiting me in Bombay and blind-rushing through the crowded streets, art galleries, neighbourhoods, stealing floor space in the tiny apartments of random friends, seeking out empty spaces where we could find them... And then Goa, rain-lashed, wind-whipped, overnight bus ride away. Sitting awkwardly in the lounge while you flashed your i-card and asked for a student discount. Student discount. At the Taj Village, Goa. But you got it of course.

I remember making you a package for when you went to Calcutta: letters and photocopied stories. And I still have the areogramme you wrote back, describing the heat and crowds, but also the work you were doing.

Ups and downs: the emails, the calls, the long chats, then the silences, the awkwardness, the make-up CD. Did it really have that Macy Gray song on it with the lines: 'My word crumbles when you are not here'?

Things have been so great recently: that wonderful warmth of familiarity and comfort blended with some kind of edgy play. Thanks for being so there for me when I was unemployed for what seemed like forever. For introducing me to wonderful-wonderful Feldenkrais. For being together in election planning, at city activist interventions, film festivals.

I wish I was back in Bangalore now: I would drive you around in your car again because you liked "being chauffered"; we would play at Arjun's house, you would turn me upside down, screaming, make my head spin; we would visit Jyo again, pretend to her that we had decided to get married; watch films; drink juice at the club; talk about bodies and minds and life and then we would say bye and I would see you again, so soon.