Amit searched her clear blue eyes intently. He soon unearthed the old sparkle that gave him a dopamine rush like no other. He felt that warm, fuzzy feeling he had so missed. She lay on her back on the small cot, looking like some exotic bird, her silky black hair fanning out around her head. He leaned over her, careful not to exert too much weight, and brushed the stray hairs off her forehead, planting a gentle kiss on her shiny temple. “We really shouldn’t be doing this”, Pooja said softly. “I know”. He shifted his weight, slowly letting go of her. “No, don’t stop! Somehow, it feels right. I don’t know if that makes me a bad person, but right now I don’t care. Let’s just do this for a little longer.” He fought the hesitation, climbed back over her and moistened her neck with soft, lingering kisses, slowly charting his way across her taut, irresistible body that brimmed with the polymorphous perversity of an Annie Hall. For a few minutes now, he was going to be Magellan, sailing quick and fast round the contours of her head and shoulders, but dropping anchor at the islands of her erogenous zones. The quiet ones are always animals in bed, she thought to herself, blushing half-ashamedly. Maybe it’s because they save up all the testosterone where it belongs, rather than puking it all out like most of the loud-mouthed Marlboro Men. “You said you were coming over for a CV review?” she whispered, with a piquant smile. “That can wait”, he grinned. “You got any ice in your dorm, babe?”

Our moral lives today are largely governed by modern ideals of respect for all life, deontological ethics and scientific rationality. As one outcome of this system, we value commitment greatly. Trust is a precious commodity, in short supply. To break someone’s trust is to diminish that person’s importance in a big way, to make light of that individual. But can we always guard ourselves against this? Sometimes a person comes along who makes us feel something extraordinary; a feeling that can’t be explained away using conventional concepts of attraction or compatibility. You are caught in a supernatural field that exists only when that person enters your thoughts or your surroundings. Like a tidal river changing course, your consciousness grinds to a halt, and then imperceptibly turns around, if only for a short while. Your corpus callosum blows a fuse, you can’t think straight, you don’t want to think straight. The story of your life is scripted by Innaritu in that brief interlude, your world existing solely in relation to some unknown master narrative.

The thoughts, the doubts, the judgements return thick and fast though, once the field contracts and disappears.

“I’m sorry, Rajat,” she whimpered. “I really should have told you right away. I’ve been dying inside with all the guilt. Please don’t overreact. I’ll make it up to you in any way you want”. He didn’t say anything. She trusted that was a good thing.

He was very angry, but he didn’t want to show it. They had been best of friends, Amit and him, for the better part of two years. Amit had been a mentor to him, when Rajat joined the team. They had really hit it off once they found out they were equally fanatical about Noiseless Explosion. They attended three of their concerts over two years, as they chugged and toked together, and became really close. Then Amit told him about Pooja one day, and Rajat was quite happy for his friend. Amit even called him over once, when he was on a date with her. Pooja took quite a liking to him, but Rajat was used to that. He had a towering presence, an attractive face and an affable personality, a combination that guaranteed success with a majority of the ladies. Rajat just good naturedly teased Amit that he was going to steal his girlfriend, and Amit took it in the right spirit. That was in December. In April the following year, Rajat received the admission offer, and so did Pooja, but Amit missed out. Later that year, Rajat and Pooja became a couple, and thoughts of Amit didn’t really cross Rajat’s mind, for they had since grown apart. Until, Amit turned up at the same college the following year.

Meanwhile, Rajat had worked his way into positions of considerable power on campus, what with his excellent people skills and his predisposition to work, work, and work some more. In one of his many roles, he was a coordinator with the recruitment team, and this kept him quite busy. He was starting to worry that he was neglecting Pooja, and that the one constant he had maintained through eighteen fickle months of campus life was going to wither away. And that is when she had called him with the confession.

He scratched the top of his palm tentatively, as he put his phone away. He turned his gaze to a dark corner of the room, thinking quietly and purposefully. Then, he hesitatingly brought his itching palm over the touchpad and with two unsteady fingers, navigated to the protected folder containing resumes of the junior batch. He scrolled down to Amit’s CV and studied the contents carefully.

Jim Morrison captured our social condition quite accurately when he wrote “People are strange when you’re a stranger”. Human beings are eminently capable of being awfully impassive towards one another. It takes that commonplace miracle called friendship to transform  an attitude of willful indifference into one of unsolicited compassion. In one of his popular works, Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle surmises that there are three kinds of friendships – those of utility, pleasure or virtue. He argues that it is the friendship of virtue that forms the tightest bonds between people. An unspoken understanding develops between two individuals and with the passage of time, shapes and hardens into an unbreakable trust. Our busy lives are scratched at the surface by several casual acquaintances, routinely making up the meetings and partings we cannot avoid. But a true friend, one befriended for goodness, plucks the inner harps of our souls, the twangs reverberating deep in our hearts. And that is why a dear friend is an under-appreciated treasure, a branch to reach out to when you lose your balance, a plank to hold on to when the current gets you. But what happens if, God forbid, the branch breaks? The plank fractures or sinks? When the sandcastle of trust your innocent inner child so lovingly built, is kicked over and demolished brutishly by the sole of a trusted soul, what would you give in return? Forgiveness or retribution?

Her eyes were sore from staring into the laptop screen for fourteen hours a day. She splashed water into her face and wiped her eyes dry. She considered her face carefully in the mirror, running a finger over a pimple that scarred the top of her cheek, feminine worry manifesting in raised eyebrows. The whiteheads were coming thick and fast. More bad news during what was turning out to be a miserable start to life post B-school. She brushed her hair to the right side of her head, just like Rajat liked it. She liked the way the woman in the mirror looked. Rajat really has an eye, she smiled. She exchanged pleasantries with Sheetal on her way out and walked back arduously to her desk. Rajat hadn’t had time at all for her these past few months, though their offices were just a short walk away. They spoke on the phone once every two days or so, but it was mostly mundane talk about things that had happened around them. She suspected he had lost interest, and worse, she was beginning to lose interest herself. But she feared losing him. She absolutely adored his tall, muscular body, his calm, confident demeanour, his remarkable ability to win people over with an assured smile and a pocketful of wit. His warmth was a life-force to her, specially coming right after a failed relationship where her partner grew cold and unaffected ever so often.

She was combing through her mailbox with measured disinterest when the alarm went off. “All employees are to evacuate the building immediately. Proceed to the emergency exit on the east side, and walk down to the ground level. Please do not panic. We have everything under control”.

“Is this a drill?” she overheard someone ask. “No, I think it’s a terrorist attack. Coordinated attacks on major business parks around the city. Rumours have been doing the rounds on Whatsapp last thirty minutes or so. No one thought it was real. Been plenty of rumours lately.”  “Oh my God, really?” Panic rippled through the floor. People streamed out clashing elbows, pushing, shoving, cursing and shouting their way through. There was more confusion on the ground floor, employees from several buildings having funneled their way there. Employees of the deadbeat IT company located in the building across from Pooja’s swanky consulting firm had descended like fleas on the scorching concrete. A thousand voice jarred and screeched in the madness of the square. Then, without warning, a few shots went off in one corner, and all hell broke loose. Bullets flew in all directions as people scrambled and ducked their way through the mess. Pooja was hit in the shin. She dragged herself laboriously past and over the writhing and lifeless bodies that had accumulated quickly in the square. She was bleeding profusely. Tears streamed down her face as she struggled her way on, mustering every ounce of strength remaining in her slim dancer’s body. She collapsed on the ground, around the bend, giving up hope, convinced that this was the end. She closed her eyes and thought of her parents, her closest friends, her dead dog Gogo, the silly fight she had with Ankita the other day, the powerful but tender embrace Rajat had held her in the last time they were together. Just then, she felt her feet lift into the air, and through weary, narrowing eyes made out the silhouette of a wounded man making a laboured attempt to carry her round the building into the relative safety of the parking area. Rajat! He had found her! He wasn’t going to let her go so easily, after all. “Don’t worry, I’ve got you, babe!” No, that didn’t sound like him! Could it be? Was it?

And so, the three lives clashed and retreated and clashed in their karass, bristling with love, loss and betrayal. Sometimes, the choices we believe we make for ourselves are preordained by an oracle of the heart, and all we can do is await their revelation. We move efficiently in and out of the various roles we play in our daily lives, directors of our private destinies. But what happens when the reins slip out of our hands? Like in Kiarostami’s “Certified Copy”? Are all our strongest beliefs, our most private thoughts, our most cherished values, just concepts, grossly inadequate when we attempt to navigate the real-world turbulence of faith and romance? Are we all just kites dancing in a hurricane?


Advait wrote this post on a diet of Paneer Shawarma from Nini’s Kitchen. He strongly recommends it. He recently viewed the soporific new Bond film. The line he has borrowed here from SPECTRE is perhaps the only thing he could bring himself to like about the film.

 

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