It has been days, since I last wrote something – a story, a character – and it is a sour feeling. I have always derived pleasure in living multiple lives through my stories – imagine, I once lived the life of a prostitute, and once, a housewife, and those 10-12 pages of their lives – my life – were a different kind of high, the sweetest I have felt with life. But, today, it is sour, because for over a year now, I have been carrying stories and characters within me – call it the mind, the heart or the soul, they have always been born from the insides – and once, talking to myself, I compared the process of writing a story to the process of bearing a child. Obviously, without the horrendous pain of delivering the latter, the former needs you to be aware of the feeling a life inside, demands you to nurture it for days – decorate it with details and colour its soul – and finally, deliver it to the world outside. Perhaps, the pain then, is the sour feeling?
I say that because I have been empty for days – I miss being sweet – and all my characters and my stories have stopped visiting me for the time being. An hour back, I was in the balcony of my house. It had been drizzling, I wanted a downpour. Now, I am at a café and the coffee is a little weird – sweet on my tip, bitter at the back – weird, different, I like it.
There’s a couple at a corner – she’s reading something, he’s clicking her – and they seem happy, undemanding, drawing comfort from another’s presence, a warmth that isn’t physical. Perhaps, this is how an old-school love-story will pan out in today’s time. You know, I have always longed-for a story that revolves around letters – weary legs of an old postmaster, yellowing envelopes and postcards, stamps in green and purple of people and places, scribbled words and spreading inks, a whiff of the pages, the breath of a loved one – the patience to wait for a letter and impatience to write another upon receiving one. A medley of feelings blurring into one another, giving birth to a thousand other stories. But, letters are long gone, and with a world of hurriedness around them, perhaps the calmness this couple shares between them are the words of my letters.
And then, there’s this girl sitting by herself in another corner. A little confused with the choices in hand – cell-phone or book – both at times, none the other. It’s interesting how she quickly picks up her phone to type something – smiling, while she’s at it – stealing glances at the screen and the page of her book that hasn’t changed since forever, as she waits for a reply; tucking the strands of her hair behind her ears as the person on the other side begins typing, as if he/she can watch. I wish the other person could really watch her through her waiting – tell her how pretty she looks each time she bites on the inside of her lip as she thinks of a reply, or how her toes dance each time the person on screen begins typing – I wish the other person never pops out of the screen, and let me just soak in the beauty of her impatient emotions.
It’s a train station now, that is my next stop. How different is it to come to a standstill at a place that is the heart of commute; perhaps, for you to cook stories, you need to be at places in a way that you aren’t expected to.
Each time I have felt less alive in life – the times of inner and outer conflict – I have found refuge in trains. Stations are always overflowing with life – both literally and metaphorically – and they are kind enough to lend you some breath, for you to kickstart your own life, nurture your story.
Chai-chai – coolie madam – cooldrinks – B2 – Shatabdi Express platform number – Paani ka bottle – Yatri-gan dhyaan dein – Side-side – Bolo keychain-bolo hand-wash – S5 kidhar hai – chai-chai.
Noise. Chaos. Crowd. Stories.
To my left, a couple stands hand in hand. Her head rests on his shoulder, as he checks the tickets for the nth time. Her fingers are henna-coated, and shiny red bangles adorn her wrists; his arm hangs around her waist, unsure whether to hold it. There’s discomfort in their body-language; still getting used to the each other’s touches. But, through their awkwardness, there’s a strange will to make things work; like your finger-tip on the initial pages of a book – the cover attracted your eyes, the blurb seemed interesting, and in a moment of haste, you bought it – desperately hoping that there are interesting things as you flip through the pages.
To the right, a couple breathes, separated by a window. Their fingers try to embrace each other’s through the window sill, in vain. His eyes are desperately trying to look into hers; her eyes are looking down, by will or by the heaviness of the water in them, I can’t tell. He’s muttering something, she’s nodding. I’ll be back. You have to take care of yourself. I will call you every day. I love you. You love me too. I know that. Please say it. I somehow wish to rob them off this last memory of being with each other. Unannounced good-byes work better, for you have a box full of memories to pick from, each day – you could go back to the day your first met, or the moment you kissed as it rained outside; the conversation you had as she rested on your lap, or the tiny games you played to tease each other. With formal good-byes, the only memory that stays is the last, the sour memory.
The train starts moving and my eyes catch up with another pair that look like they have been desperately trying to draw my attention for long. The demanding eyes belong to a curious face – locks of auburn hair pulled back by a turquoise hair-band; a long nose with careless freckles delivered around it; thick, glossy, lips in red – but, it’s the eyes – buried under thick, circular glasses – that pose with questions and demand answers all at once.
Perhaps I would tell her that the sour feeling is in a way necessary, for you to appreciate the characters and the stories, as and when they come back to you. Or, I would tell her that the stories and the characters never really leave you; there are only stories that you write, and there are stories that you don’t write. And then, there are stories that demand to be written by you, but, at their own sweet time.
The train rushes. I run for it – for her – it’s a downpour.
In case you enjoyed reading this article and wish to read more of my stories, follow this link to buy my debut book, ‘Window Seat’, a collection of 8 short stories. 🙂