I think I can review people like Kishore reviews movies. I can pronounce futile but erudite verdicts, dissect the obvious. I could reprimand and elevate, and insightfully remark on choices that went wrong. I could intently scrutinize aspects. I could both spot and craft pretention in reference and vocabulary. Just not with movies. I don’t think they are in any way significant enough to deserve such mediation. I can do it with people. More capricious behaving entities, more imparting, tangible and affecting.
I think Kishore would be the first person I would review. The long exposure is only a convenience. Our relationship lasted four years. That is a success in all terms. Oh, and just to spice things up… for my reviews I would not award stars. I would award scars. And that makes… five scars to Kishore.
I broke up with Kishore because he seemed immensely and perpetually sullen. And it was contagious. I was never a submissive girlfriend, he never asked me to be one. But a manic depressive seeks love like shelter, and that was too Biblical and maternal a function for me. It is cruel to expect otherwise from an aspiring writer who had to settle for an employment as a film critic for half a decade. He was a famous critic, and he had a good deal of exposure… but he wasn’t an artist and that was enough to depress him. His opinions mattered to diffidently opulent institutions surrounding Friday releases that would quote his lacklustre validation on their movie posters. Most of the films he reviewed were formulaic pedestrian mediocrity. He wouldn’t have watched them had it not been for his job. Was I supportive? I don’t know. I don’t know why that is expected of me. I was with him, and that was inadequate for his life. So, I left. I didn’t want to be anything short of a purpose.
We had a little world of our own in this blustery city. A quiet cosy apartment, with paraphernalia of warm choices we had designed ourselves together. The interior geometry was a ragged assembly of bookshelves, filled to the brim. I loved it. Our collections till the point we had met had converged in these shelves, and the stock had expanded over the four years. And after a point I realized I love the bookshelves more than I love him. The idea of a marriage never struck us.
Oh… And by the way, this is not the review. That would be much more structured and eloquent. This is an extempore that my mind is willing to engage in while I am still waiting. Yes, I am waiting- a Starbucks, and the milieu is pretty. I like it. The urbane epicures have well-manneredly clustered up… an oral civilization is the brew. There is a buzz that my mind can almost inhabit. I am waiting for Rishav. It has been half a year since the breakup and I had options.
Whether I am moving in with Rishav now or not is a decision I would have to take over years. Rushing anything would be perilous. But while the judicious progress is being made, I have some revelations for him- gradual. These might, for their sheer promise of shock, serve the purpose of litmus tests too… to accelerate my decision.
The most crucial revelation was about Pulao. No, he doesn’t know anything about Pulao yet, and if moving in is indeed to be considered, Pulao would most certainly accompany me, and must be accepted.
I had come half an hour before the scheduled time. Not that Rishav is late. I had no workaholic pretence to uphold, and besides, I have an inherent uneasiness with belated arrivals, when the table is formerly occupied. It gives me an impression of being spectated and examined critically on entrance, till I walk to the seat and start talking. I don’t possess the seasoned suaveness of calisthenics that many women of my age employ. I like to be the one on the seat first, and watch him enter… watch his psyche give away the vague and latent in puppeteering his skeleton, while he walks to the table.
I sometimes think I should just remove myself from reason, because I am disastrous at making decisions with charted aspects. For example, right now, my mind has digressed from a review of Kishore to justifying my inelegance… while what it should be occupied with right now is a rehearsal of what I am going to tell Rishav today. Rehearsal is a convenient oasis of sensory emphasis in a chaotic mind, though any tangibility obtained out of it is best abandoned and bulldozed by spontaneity when the moment arrives.
The effluvium of the ambiance is pleasant and inviting and also for some reason impenetrable. What you can observe in an environment of cosmetic comfort like this is how effectively man has encoded notions in communicative movements. I looked around, trying to spot raw sporadic bursts of humanity amidst the tumid equanimity, and find a promise of romance in the recreational assemblies. I think Kishore understood that alchemy. His violations were pleasant. Which is why he has the first scar in my review. I have ways of delivering these scars like mementos, embossed indelibly on the facades, as if they are on movie posters.
The couples are talkative, and keenly so. They are all possessed of the auspicious infancy of a relationship when intimacy is still a factual transaction. The solitary are engrossed in screens of different kinds. My fruitless meditation, suppressing a brewing panic, was probably the most enigmatic bearing in the vicinity. No one had time to decipher it. Fleeting attentions never cared to embrace, and their haphazard admissibility was dependent on my mood.
I have met Rishav thrice before, and by my standards, the exposure is insufficient. Movies are easier to review than people fundamentally in the sense that they are conclusive. Kishore would say that they are condensations of really vast contexts, and the multitudes that they contain can be accessed in different realms of perception, just like people.
To make reviewing people a similar discipline, one needs to decide the extent of condensation and acquaintance that would be the premise of the criticism. For example, if I am told to review the person seated on the table right by the counter reading a Kindle, I would have to decide with whatever his distant inertness portrays. Then again, when Rishav would come and spend about an hour with me, what I would obtain would be an addition or alteration in a pre-existing draft informed by three meetings. And if I review Kishore, the review would be of the totality of an association. So, the standards have to be determined. A whole relationship is ideal. But it is also true that a critical analysis, concrete only on absolute closure, wouldn’t be the best emotional anchor for a relationship.
Pulao is not old enough to have or express an opinion yet about Rishav. He can’t help me make a choice just yet. But it’s surprising how I can withhold his existence for so long. He is the entity of sustenance in my life now.
Pulao loved his father. That is something I know. It is true that Kishore’s terrors dissolved in his affection for Pulao. That’s why he gets his second scar. But soon this display began to assume the shape of a perfunctory resolution, which really appalled me. But Pulao didn’t want his parents to be separated. That’s something he conveys, somehow. Even now, Pulao himself seems incomplete with me. But I can’t live without him either.
Rishav should know about this. It won’t be a ceremonious announcement. It would be a detail that would be inserted almost as an obvious amidst conversational gravity. Now whether Rishav qualifies for a choice is totally dependent on whether he accepts Pulao or not. This is a really late disclosure, I know. It almost feels like exploitation, but that’s not what I meant. The topic was never brought up. I didn’t behave like I was consciously evading it. I didn’t lie. It was just something that I thought should not affect anything and so didn’t mention.
But let’s now confront the question I have been squashing under the weight of my adulthood for a while- it takes a certain extent of neglect for a mother to not mention her only child in a rendezvous of this nature. Am I really considering Pulao a cumbrance then? Or am I indeed sensitive enough to let the society infiltrate? It is true that Pulao provoked perceptions. How the society responded to him, referring to their ingrained normalcies isn’t my concern. It’s more about how my son loses his individuality in becoming an aspect in other people’s reviews of me. When I introduce Pulao to you I want your first question to be- “Why the hell did you name him Pulao?” I don’t want any other question to precede this. Not that I would answer.
Everyone reviews. Pulao doesn’t. I don’t know If Kishore did. Which is why he gets his third scar. Sometimes I wonder whether it is just me I loved in Pulao. But then I suppose it’s the same for all parents. There has to be a sense of ownership in the embrace of a mother. But then it can’t be only me I celebrate in him. It has to be a bit of Kishore too. He was ours from the very first day. We welcomed him with tears of otherworldly happiness, together. We both played with him and made decisions for him. We would cry out to him whenever we witnessed something that makes us happy… a primal happiness, almost like resurgence. We would seek happiness more fervently just so that we could wrap it up in his unalloyed realization. We would put him to sleep together, and gaze at his keen seraphic cognizance melt into a world, oozing with sacred warmth. We would go out with him… and return home to him when we didn’t. We did everything that is expected of good parents, and much more… and we did it all together. No documentation or holy performance had enshrined our Together.
In the café there is no family of three around right now. No parent-child pair either. There were formal meetings, with laptops and an overflow of documents in some tables. Some hosted desultory meditations. But that isn’t important. What is important is that Rishav would be here any moment, and my mind is not impressively yielding today. I know if I mention him in passing, I would be asked about him. If he is missed the first time, because of the remoteness of the reference, the second time I’ll make sure he is not. The mention would mushroom into a discussion, and then I would be asked all about Pulao. All about… “You never told me about him before”- he would say. Or just “from Kishore?” and I’d nod. It is pretty difficult to predict right now, but I know it would be pivotal.
There was a child-like lunacy in our parenthood. I must say we both were eager. We wanted Pulao. We had awaited him.
And the night he was born was a teary one, when the doctors had declared me infertile after hectic diagnoses, and Kishore had with minimalist strokes and simplistic geometry engraved a little infant’s face on our bedroom wall with a red crayon and said, smiling through his tears at me- “Let’s name him Pulao”. We could never hold him for real. But we were bringing him up, and sharing our moments the right way. It was working. Looking at that sketch on the wall would solve problems. Would revive smiles. Thinking about him would help us live. He was born and raised of strokes of thought and fancy. And we would talk about him aloud, we would let the world know of him… never trivializing him in our minds like a puerile figment or a game. For that I give his father his fourth scar.
But now that I don’t have Kishore around, I find it hard to talk about him. I find it hard to make people believe in him, and me. There was a child-like lunacy in our parenthood, and I am in these doldrums of insecurity now, where I fear a trifling mocking smirk at my infantile predilections more than I fear losing Pulao forever. I know as soon as Rishav would enter, my resolves would dissolve, and my palms would tighten around Pulao’s mouth and nose, and wait for him to stop breathing. Wait for the child in me to die. Wait for the mother in me to die. Just because it lacked the tangibility of a being of flesh and blood. More like a movie. And I do sincerely believe, while I hide Pulao behind my no-nonsense adulthood now; he would be safe and sound, in the sanctuary of another mind. A mind that was unapologetic of a shared idiocy… a mind that deserves the fifth scar.
Indian Literature & Arts Magazine | Author | Deepro Roy is Writer, cinephile and student “a communicator, not by peripheral feedback.”
Genre: Short Story