Could’ve..

It was killing her. Literally killing her. She didn’t know where it was coming from, this fist that was squeezing her chest. This burning in her eyes…oh the burning…if only she could put it off with a flood of tears. But she couldn’t. That she was sure of. It had never been in her to ease the pain with tears. The irony was the pain had an audience within her. A part of her that was standing back, slightly amused, saying “Hmm…so this is how it feels to have loved and lost.

Loved? Is that what she had been doing for the past few days? If that was so, then Gautham Vasudev Menon sure as hell had it wrong. There had been no violins or stolen glances or even a lingering smile. There as sure as hell were no proposals or ‘I’ll-love-you-till-the-end-of-my-lifes’. Not even an ‘I-have-a-thing-for-you’. Nor had she know, by some inexplicable cosmic suggestion that he was in love with her. In fact, to this day, she had no idea if he was.

However, it had all begun in a fashion that was the baap of all clichés – through a common friend. This ‘common friend’ (let’s call him – for it is a he in this particular story – Mr.CF for the moment) is the most evenly distributed species that has ever walked the earth – every gang has at least one. He is the most cheerful, vibrant guy you’ll ever meet. He has been in a relationship, a very exciting relationship since you’ve known him which is probably why he thinks his mission in life is to match of the people who are ‘meant-to-be’. And he is good. Almost 90 % success rate he has, even though his methods of connecting the people who are ‘meant-to-be’ is often questionable.

Regardless, it came as a surprise when Mr.CF came in one day and told her that someone has a thing for her. “Uvv…!” was her reaction, for that sure she was that he was pulling her leg. “No, seriously. Swear to God”, he insisted. She grinned at him and shrugged it off. A few days passed. Every time he passed her in the corridor (the CF i.e.), he’d ask her “Have you thought about what I told ya?” and she’d smile at him and wave it off.

To nobody’s surprise, as days passed on, the idea started growing on her. Curiosity came first. What was he like? What did he like in her? Did he find her gorgeous? Was there anything about her that he didn’t like? Did he notice her when she walked into the room? To find the answer to the first question, she did the obvious – landed up on his Facebook profile. And there, between the books he liked and the music he loved, she realised that she and he bowed to a different deity. Uh oh. A casual mention of a ‘hypothetical situation in which she falls in love with a guy of a different religion’ was presented before her parents. Negative.

“So..did you think about it? He’s really into you, you know…” CF told her.

“Religion scene aavm”, she told him.

“What if we work around that?”

“Na…you can’t work around that. At least, my folks can’t.”

“What if his folks can?”

“They can’t. No one can”, she responded.

“He’s gonna ask them. He wants to, but should he?”

She didn’t know what to say. The logical part in her, the realist, knew well that no good was ever gonna come out of it. It was one thing to spout “religion is bullshit”, another to practise it. After all, one’s life was never truly one’s own. What she didn’t anticipate was the part in her that wanted it to be true. Like the camel that crept in to rest its hump, he had crept into a corner of her mind and before she knew it, he’d carved out a cosy corner for himself.

Which was why, when CF turned up one evening and said “It’s not gonna work out. He asked his family. They said no. He’s devastated, but that’s just the way things are, I guess. You guys’ll be friends, right?”, all she could do was smile and say “Of course! I told you it’ll never work out.” She pretended that she couldn’t feel the tightness in her chest, the piercing needle of sorrow (or was it regret?) that threatened to burst her heart. It wasn’t his fault. He hadn’t mentioned, much less promised her anything.

And it wasn’t like she was in love with him. You couldn’t be in love with someone over a week’s time.

No, she definitely wasn’t in love with him.

But she could have. Over the week, she had realized that she could easily fall in love with him. It’s almost like the bud of a flower, ready to blossom but it’s just not quite there yet. And she liked him a lot, she really did. She thought about him often, but she didn’t love him.

She could, though. She knew she could.

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PERSEPOLIS – MARJANE SATRAPI

You know how sometimes you pick up a book with the hope of achieving nothing but a lightness of mind, sort of like a distraction from all that is going on around you? That is the reason why I started reading Persepolis. It had been introduced to me by a friend and though I found it mildly interesting, I had put it on my ‘Must-read’ list. Well, if you must know, my ‘Must-read’ list comprises of widely acclaimed books like those of Marquez’s and Tolstoy’s that I’d really love to be in love with. Someday.

For one, Persepolis is a graphic novel. You know, the ones with cute illustrations, characters speaking out in bubbles and rouge-on-the-cheek shown as a blob of pencil shade. Like Tintin. Or Calvin n Hobbes. Funny, but a bit juvenile, I thought. Boy, was I wrong!

Persepolis 1 & 2 traces the story of Marjane Satrapi, an Iranian girl. With simple words and illustrations Marjane describes her memories of growing up in the war-struck country, moving to Vienna at 10, coming back after a few years, studying in Iran under the reign of Islamic Revolutionaries and finally moving out for good.

Personally, I’ve been very interested in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and other Islamic nations (except for the UAE. Yawn!) I know not where this fascination comes from, but it has resulted in me trying to read Quran, understand the fanatics’ perspective and such in my late teens. Needless to say, my grandparents were deeply disturbed by this, even as my parents tried explaining to them that ‘it was just a phase’. My mother blamed it on Kamala Suraiyya and stopped prodding me to read Malayalam literature. Anyway, my point was, as much as I tried to understand what is going on there, there were always holes in my theories, you know. For instance, how the entire thing started was a mystery – yes, I knew it was about the oil and yes, the ‘Burger-and-Fries’ nation was involved, but the real deal – no idea. I tried reading about it in magazines and newspapers but after 2 pages of words like ‘imperialists’, ‘savak’, ‘proletariat’ etc, I gave up. It took too much effort to understand what was going on.

What I find absolutely amazing about Persepolis is the ease with which the author explains what went wrong at Iran. It describes the effect of the countries mucked up political situations on the common man with simple words, instances and often, a tinge of humor. For example, Satrapi describes one of her brushes with the extremists and their obsession with women ‘maintaining their dignity’ in the following strip.

A page of 'Persepolis'
A page of ‘Persepolis’

I could go on and on about this, but nothing I say can do justice to Satrapi’s work. All I can say is this one is, officially, one of my favs.

So, happy reading 🙂

PS: If anyone is tempted to give Persepolis a shot, I have the ebook with me. Drop me a mail and I’ll let ya borrow it.