Like Autumn in New York

I think we wear our loneliness like a precious brooch on our dresses. It is meant to adorn us, to mark us out as something different.

I look at the scores of girls ahead of me as I walk towards work, these girls all so young like me but with something in them that unites them and shoves me away. As if there is a thread that is common to them and that binds them but missed me somehow and I now remain on the sides, hesitant, because I don’t know how to ask for a little of that thread.

These girls, with their ordinary beautiful lives and with tall man leaning towards them, head bent, sometimes handsome too, no doubt still not deserving someone as wonderful as the girls.

I read somewhere how love, like autumn in New York apparently, is right around the corner. This thought is comforting. Not that I am still so naïve as to believe it could happen anytime now, and anywhere. But it is calming to think that it exists, somewhere around, and that it will emerge when its time comes.

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What I Want — A half poem of sorts

What I want is for a woman in her forties to come pat my shoulder and say indifferently,

“It’ll be fine

It’ll all work out

This is how it is supposed to be.

You’re in your twenties.

Sit still. As the poet said there is still some time

The way is long and life is short

Wisdom, you see, lies in contradictions

You will be fine.”

What I want is for a man in his forties to tell me

Where all the time went in all these whole years

These whole two years when I’ve been sighing

And whining and being wistful.

How did I turn, say, twenty-six when the last I remember was being

Twenty-four and ready for the world.

 

New Worlds

There is a yearning in me, a longing again about a world that for me exists outside my own and I don’t mean this only geographically. A world, a space where kinships and companionships are formed for me effortfully but also meaningfully. A space, by default broad, global, expansive and ever expansive, a space in which I find that I belong and where I can be my own self without having “interesting” conversations inside my head about my very “interestingness.” Where I can look outside into the world because inside me I am comfortable, at perfect ease and at peace.

 

The Land of the Clouds

Sometimes I think writers take a flight of fancy and land on places that only exist in the blurry world between the earth and the sky. Some might call this place the Land of the Clouds, but those in the know know that this secret suspended place, solid and real as the world on earth, is however visible within only a certain spectrum of light. We humans, as you know, are not endowed with visibility across the entire spectrum of light, which is why we miss out on the beautiful range of colours on a single petal of a certain flower that to us appears all white, but to a fly in all its vibrancy. Who would have thought we’d lag behind a fly? But there it is.

This place that writers retreat to (or are they sent to? – now there’s a question) enables them to gather their thoughts like clouds gather before they prepare to shower the earth, and attempt to pour out their creative energy in some way, any way, so that they can live in peace back at home on earth if even for a little while.

It is difficult to dispense with this energy, you see. It is not that writers are born with a very special creative energy. Everybody knows everybody is creative, it comes with the human gene. What writers have to own up to is living with an obsessive thought about their creative energy and how they need to somehow, any how, dispense with it. It cannot be silenced, they say. It persists, it screams sometimes to be let out. So, what they do is, what writers do is they book the earliest flight, preferably at night or early morning when few people are likely to disturb them, they book a flight to this secret place. Then they assimilate with the place, integrate with it entirely – see, it’s only for a short while, so it’s not that big a deal – they entirely subsume themselves, their very essence under it, under its regime.

They are one with it, or they try to be, though realistically speaking they cannot by the very fact that language, that eternal divider of the self and other, even the self and the self, that language exists. In any case, they try dissolving in it. It lasts only for a short while, see. And then, lo and behold, before you know it it is time to take the flight back home. Which they do, I’m not sure how willingly though.

On Age

Perhaps it’s the kind of world I find myself being born into, or perhaps it’s only me, but this modern-day fixture with age is both laughably silly and quite unnecessary. At the same time, it raises its head when you least expect it. Your age, sometimes, matters.

It matters, admittedly, if you let it. This is one of its kinder sides. More than age, more than a specific number over which one chooses to focus, I think it would serve as a better window to life perhaps if one chose to look at life in phases. Preferably, actually, through phases that one concocts as one lives one’s life. So. For me, I think I have clearly left the shore of childhood and adolescent innocence, and do find myself, having only recently disembarked onto the shore of young adulthood, bewildered and confused.

I find that I have to bravely embrace this new place. I say bravely, because it is hard to own this land as my own, even if for only a little while. I am scared. But I have arrived here. There is the familiar if largely unremembered sense of disorientation and fear, the same that I must have felt even though I couldn’t articulate it then, when I was just embarking on adolescence, and, stretching back even farther, well, even when I was born.

I know more now than I ever knew when I was leaving childhood. I knew too less then to fear the loss of childhood even. I read a little, I was told several things about adolescence. I had enough half-cooked knowledge to guide me to what I could expect from this phase. And I took it in my stride, I think, whatever little stone adolescence chose to throw at me. The thing is, the less you know the cockier you can be. My confidence in my abilities took root here.

It only flowered, my confidence, which is something I am grateful for. As I look back, as I am looking back, I get a feeling that I am also trying to evaluate “what went wrong” when really, nothing did. I cannot help it, I always looked at mistakes with something of a mix of curiosity and enthusiasm, because they were the holy grail that would then lead me to perfection. Not perfection, not really, but betterment. Learning. I scour through my recent past to try to look at mistakes I might have made that places me where I am now.

Self-care, self-healing, self-confidence are all paramount, as I have recently realised. But those are not the same thing as cultivating a self-aware reserve of your talent, ability, and intelligence in your consciousness and grooming it from time to time. Nurturing it, tending to it lest, you fear, you lose your self-confidence and sense of self-worth.

Beyond self-esteem and self-respect, beyond working towards a self that is at peace with itself and who, by virtue of said peace, is able to careful walk along that edge of self-confidence without wallowing in it, I don’t think there is anything more to work towards, as far as the self is concerned. Once that is achieved, the rest, whatever comes along, is not the self that is doing it.

Amr Diab’s Maak Albi, in English

I’ve tried something new today. I love the sound of Egyptian Arabic, and Amr Diab’s music makes it somehow even more appealing and attractive to me. Maak Albi is one of my favourite songs by him. I have attempted to transcreate the lyrics drawing upon the little I know of the language and reading English renderings of it all from over the web. Here goes.

My Heart Is Yours

Tell me, my love, why is it

That I perish in your longing

When you’re far away from me –

Until you come back to me and

I am comforted again.

 

Tell me, my love, what is it

That has changed me,

How have I been occupied

In all the while that you hadn’t happened to me?

 

Chorus

My heart is with you

Don’t leave my side

Because when you do, I miss you

My heart is with you

And I swear, I can’t ever forget you

There can be no one other than you, my love,

You, who is the best of all the angels.

 

All my best days, all my most wonderful years

Are yet to be lived – with you

Next to you,

For who else could I ever desire?

 

I address my song to you

Love cannot be other than you –

I have opened my eyes to it

And in it

I’ve known peace.

 

Chorus

 

(I’ve referred chiefly to this site, and the song’s official video on YouTube.)

A Noise Too Many

I am grown so weary and intolerant of noise. All around me there seem to be babies and man-children who will cackle at 12 am like there’s no tomorrow, run about the compound playing football, or just stomp around because they can and it is a free country and because they are men. It is very difficult for me to restrain myself from screaming at them in all my deranged, incoherent glory.

But we can only do certain things. Others we must grapple with somehow — perhaps through the adoption of stoicism.

I wrote the above as children right outside my house chased each other, causing the very ground to rumble. But then I got up, strode straight to my door and peeking out of it, kindly, told the little girls (girls they were, note) that they should go to bed, was it not too late? Two tiny faces smiled at me shyly, and while I know I spoke gently, I don’t think I was smiling. But they smiled at me, tossed their heads to indicate assent, to the effect that the ground beneath my feet (or, well, the foot of my bed) has ceased to rumble. Though I must and will point out that the cackle and the thump of the football down below in the compound still persists and I expect it to do so for at least an hour.