Self-care

What does self-care mean to you? For me, it is more than giving yourself a break, eating something you’ve always wanted to taste or even doing yoga. They are all a part of it, don’t get me wrong. But they all mean nothing if the most important ingredient is missing: intention.

When you are doing those things, are you really doing it in the true spirit of love? I think that no matter how much we do things, it will mean little if it’s not really coupled with positive intention.

So the question really is: how are you feeling? When you are watching your favorite TV show, eating chocolate and spoiling yourself, are you feeling relaxed, or are you feeling guilty and internal loathing for being lazy? When you are doing yoga, are you feeling refreshed and energised, or are you only comparing yourself to the other aesthetic yogis with the seemingly perfect lives on Instagram?

Feelings matter. In fact, feelings matter the most. So next time, before you do something nice for yourself, be aware of how you feel in the process. The ‘goal’ is to enjoy yourself, to feel at peace, to feel joy.

And if you are not feeling any of these things, then you are probably doing self-care wrong. 🙂

P.S: I hope you all find the feeling we’re all searching for.

The First Time

The beauty of first times is that everything, including you, feels like its reborn again. It’s like when the first flower blossoms, its petals fresh and rosy, and the bees and the rest of the world stand in awe, captivated by the brilliance of it. It’s like when a baby first enters into the world, kicking and crying, but the wonder of a new life being born surpasses all other things; THIS is magic created. It’s like when the sun first dips into the horizon, leaving the sky in inky darkness, and the stars peep out from its curtains beckoning you to come nearer, teasing you to catch a fistful of stardust.

But then the second time comes around and magical things slowly turn into things that are routine. The stars are no longer mystical, they are just left trailing behind busy lies. The child no longer only captivates, and the flower gets tramped on by usual passer-by’s.

Our hearts are much of the same creatures. We love, and we love, and the first time around everything that we touch with love becomes gold, we are the Midas of our own lives. The first smile of the lover feels warmer than sunshine, their skin has the sweet fragrance of your favorite flowers and you discover a universe on their lips.

And then there comes the second time, and the third, and the fourth. Soon, it will be years that you’ve known them, and first times aren’t first times anymore. They fade into the backdrop of your life, trudging along with you, existing, not living.

But how lucky are those who don’t let this stop them. Who don’t ever stop finding the first times, because it is always there to discover. Who smile because someone will finally be their second, and their third, and their fourth, and their last- for the first time.

Pretty Anne

I first met her at a railway station reading a book with a strange smile playing along her lips. Pretty, I thought, and the name stuck. From then on, she was Pretty Anne to me.

“What’re you reading?” I asked, seating myself on the opposite side of the bench. She looked up, her bright, inquisitive eye looking me over. No hi, no hello. What a dumbass, she must have thought. I know I did.

“Why do you think people write stores?”

But then again, she didn’t say hi or hello either. She also didn’t answer my question, but that’s okay. I was hooked.

“I write stories.”

None of us were answering questions.

“Can I read them?”

“Sure,” I said, taking out my journal from my backpack. I always preferred writing stories in the old fashioned way, rather than typing it out.

I tapped my feet with growing uneasy anticipation as she perused my writing from a few weeks ago. My palms were a little sweaty, so I put them inside my coat pockets.

“Brilliant,” she whispered.

“Excuse me?”

“I said this is brilliant,” she said, looking at me with a new found interest that I found endearing.

“Oh well, thank you,” I said, brushing it off, a little embarrassed. I had never learned how to take compliments.

“So, are you a writer? A published one?”

“Oh no, not really.”

“But why not?” She was fully turned towards me now, enthusiasm bouncing off her. It was contagious.

“I don’t know. I guess the idea of sharing my thoughts with a total stranger scares me a little bit.”

“Hmm,” she responded, and leaned back on the chair, lost in thought.

“I don’t think people write stories for others,” she said softly, almost talking to herself. I was listening with the utmost attention.

“I think people write stories for themselves.”

It was quiet now, and the distant hum of trains were all the noise that could be heard. I wouldn’t say that I hadn’t thought of the same concept before. It was similar to the concept of flowers, they don’t exist to look beautiful or to give bees pollen, or be worn as a garland. They just exist and people make of them what they want to make of them.

Just like stories.

The whistle of an incoming train brought me out of my reverie.

“Well, that’s me,” she said. Standing up, she gave me a piece of paper.

She’d given me her number.

“It was nice meeting you. I’m Anne by the way,” she said and walked towards the railway coach.

I stared at the chugging train till it disappeared from sight. The paper felt warm in my hands.

No, I thought. Pretty Anne.

 

**

 

[P.S: This can also be read as a prequel to The Storyteller. I’m sorry. (: ]

The Storyteller

“I think I’m going to begin writing stories again.”

“Why did you stop?”

I shrugged, looking out of the bus window, the dismal rain making the sky look more grey than usual. I thought of Pretty Anne and her pretty feet. Pretty painted toes and her fair skin. Pretty face and perfect teeth. Her perfect little head smashed on the concrete sidewalk.

I drew my coat around me a little tighter. It was cold.

When we were small, we’d ask questions like:

“Why do bad things happen to good people, Daddy?”

“Why didn’t I get first place when I KNOW I was better than John?”

“What’s wrong with me?”

“Why don’t people like me?”

And Dad would always answer, “Life is like that sweetheart. It isn’t always what you think it is.”

Even though Dad is long gone now, after being greeted by an old friend of his that kept visiting him from time to time, the heart stroke, I suppose his answer would still remain the same.

“Why did Pretty Anne have to die?”

“Life is like that sweetheart. It isn’t always what you think it is.”

I reached the door of my apartment and opened the door. I scanned around my apartment. Letters and books scattered around the table. Most of them were from her.

“I loved this book so much and I want you to read it! Xoxo,” a message stapled on the cover of an old library book. “Hey! This is the best book I’ve read so far!” on another, and, “Forget that. THIS is the best book I’ve read so far.” All these books, recommended by her. She loved reading. Every time we’d meet, we’d exchange books. She’d give me books she loved and write little happy notes on them, and I’d give her my books to read, and when I ran out of them, my writings, to her. Surprisingly, she often liked my writings better than the books by world-renowned authors. I never understood why.

“It’s more personal,” she’d say. “It’s like getting to know you all over again.”

I guess what she’d really been trying to tell me was; she loved me. Pretty Anne and her pretty little nuances loved me. I was the luckiest guy in the world.

Except, I wasn’t. Because Pretty Anne was no longer here and life wasn’t pretty anymore. It was dismal and grey and everything that she wasn’t.

But that’s why we write stories, don’t we?

To spin tales from the backs of our mind, turning pain into poetry. And that’s why I’ll begin to write again.

She would have loved it.

Words

There are words knocking on my chest that I need to let out. They’re like silent cries, begging to be spilled, crying to be fired. What do these words have to say? Freedom, love, joy, peace. But the words also have to say hatred, fear, jealousy, anger. All these myriad of words tumble out into the air like smoke from chimney, dissipating into thin air: the echoes of eternity.

These words are the whispers of hope for some, a place to draw their strength from. For imagine a world where freedom exists as purely as the word spells out. Freedom. A word that is a conglomeration of millions of hopes and dreams, a word for which battles have been fought and wars have been won.

Yet these words are also the nightmares turned to reality. Hate. Spewing on the streets like hot, uncontrolled lava. What do you battle hate with? It’s such a small word, with such a terrible backstory; one that the simple four letter words have the burden to carry.

And that is how we learn to string our words around our throats carefully. When we realize that each word is heavy, each word has a history we cannot comprehend, maybe then we won’t be so careless with them.

These words spilling out of me, they are all I have. Let these words paint the picture, while I disappear in between the lines.

 

Dear Sister

 

It wasn’t often that I sat down to write a letter to a dead person in the middle of the night. But here I was. Tired, groggy, and let’s face it, desperate.

“Dear Sister,” I scribbled. It sounded too formal but I continued on anyway. “How’ve you been? It’s been a while that I heard from you. But I’m sure you’re doing great. You always are. As for me, I’m a pathetic mess of a person, if you could call me that. Actually, I need some help. I was wondering if you could tell me the correct way to kill myself? I thought of sleeping pills, but then that seemed to be too easy, and I also read online that it has a very high chance of not working, and I’d rather die (literally) than see my parents’ heartbroken faces over my mangled body. So tell me, how did you do it?”

 

The next day I returned home from school only to see a tear soaked mother with a piece of paper clenched tightly in her fist. My letter! Shit, shit, shit, shit. This was a nightmare. She wasn’t supposed to see it. She was miserable enough already, with one daughter killing herself, she didn’t need another one too.

“Oh mom,” I rushed to her side, “I didn’t mean it. I really didn’t.” Well, maybe I did, a little bit, but come on, I wouldn’t REALLY kill myself, would I? I wouldn’t do that to my parents.

“I’m sorry,” my mother said in between sobs, “I don’t know where I went wrong.”

“Oh no, no,” I cradled her head in my chest, “None of this is your fault.” It was mine and I felt guilt and shame flow thickly inside my body. Why did I have to do it? Idiot.

Long story short, after a couple of arguments and a lot more tears, I had no choice but to listen to her. I was going to go to a counsellor.

 

Counselling was not bad actually. I sometimes even liked it. It was like having a best friend who preferred not to talk a lot, only listen. Within a span of few weeks, I had told him my likes, dislikes, hobbies, dreams and all sorts of crap. I was still convinced that I didn’t NEED a counsellor but I liked having a person to talk to, so I never complained.

It was around the second week that he asking probing questions. “So your sister… were you close?”

“Very,” I replied curtly.

“What was she like?”

I looked up at him and answered wistfully, “Well, she was perfect. She could do no wrong. She was everything I wanted to be….”

“If she was so perfect, why do you think she wanted to kill herself?”

“Sometimes people don’t WANT to kill themselves,” I spat angrily. “They are compelled to. No one wakes up and says, ‘Oh today is a nice day. I think I’m going to kill myself.’”

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

He kept quiet for some time. I almost felt sorry for my outburst too.

“What did she look like?” he asked again, softly, as if trying not to scare me.

“Well, she…” I stopped. Why couldn’t I remember what she looked like? It was all hazy suddenly, like trying to see without glasses.

“Wait, there ought to be pictures of her in our family album,” I said and with my heart thumping fast, went out to get some family pictures in the living room. How could I forget what my own sister looked like?

Once I found the albums, I sat down on the floor and he sat down beside me. It had been ages since these were used, dust had collected on its edges.

I flipped the album open. There was a picture of me on my third birthday, blowing out candles with my family around me, there was another one with me carrying a tiny school bag for my first day of school, and one of me riding a bicycle. I flipped through it feverishly. Where were her pictures?

Panicked, I looked up at him, “It’s in here. It has to be.”

“No,” he said softly, “It’s not.

“Your sister doesn’t exist. She never has.”

The Fallen City

Have you ever heard the sound of your heart breaking?
I have.
It sounds like the entire city falling down
Like the walls holding up your heart gave up,
Maybe that’s why you can hear your heart thump so loud.
And on lonely nights,
You can sense a sea of hopelessness wash over you,
Drowning the fallen city
and you.
You wonder how you could drown in something that’s inside you,
when swimming had always been your favorite lesson
But maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn to breathe again
You’ll survive.
Hearts are fragile things
But I promise it won’t drown this time,
Because you’ll teach it how to fly instead.

Ice-cream

I was just a kid when I found out the meaning of life. We were seven years old, and Alice and I had gone off cycling while having a heated argument. I was convinced that matching rubber bands and T-shirts and shoes were boring and she was indignant that I had pointed it out. In our tiny little world of right and wrongs, we hardly realized that this was the preview of what life was going to throw at us a few years from now, when we were going to be adults and fight to death trying to prove ourselves right and the other person ignorantly wrong.

So we went anyway, pedalling our way down the street till we reached an ice-cream shop. We forgot our pains for a moment of ecstasy when we looked at each other and eagerly hopped off our cycles to buy an ice-cream each. Once we had the ice-cream in our hands (mine chocolate and hers vanilla), we did not just begin to eat it, we SAVOURED it. The cool taste melting in our mouths, relaxing tensions and sore muscles in our agile bodies from cycling for too long, the flavour exploding in our mouths evoking an unbridled happiness within, and our argument being forgotten, we both laughed at each other’s messy faces, ice-cream drawn like a badly applied lipstick around our faces; we were best friends once again.

And that’s when I realized what the meaning of life was: It was all about finding the ice-cream wherever we go.

The story of the storyteller.

Seven wonders, seven wonders of the world. Seven wonders of mine, when seven wanderers set out for freedom. All seven rejoiced, looked up at the seven stars with seven prayers in their eyes. The sun from seven sides beaming at their shadows of night. As the curtains slipped from their minds of wonder, reality struck it’s thunder bolt shine. Breaking their destinies of freedom into seven pains in disguise. Each set out to find their broken pieces, with threads of hope to sew them fine.

One shed tears to the Gods and built a shrine.

The second built a house of magic and filled it with wine.

The third turned the hourglass and invented time.

The fourth found his treasure of gems stuck in rhine.

The fifth built a society and glorified his crime.

The sixth entered the scene and turned sublime.

The seventh climbed the hills to watch the Heavens burn, and built his wonder once again to turn.

The café

I wish there was a cafe where we could drink up feelings

where waiters would come to take our orders 

And we’d say, ‘I’d like one bottle of melancholy please.’

And they’d serve it with a little extra sadness served with complementary poems by the side 

because that’s their favorite, top selling combo of the week

Ranking after shots of heartbreak of course

And I’d sit here in this sad cafe and order a happy drink

A glass of love, if you’d like,

And I’d drink to your name,

glasses after glasses,

Until I was drowning in it

Once more.