Let’s not have a sniffle, let’s have a bloody good cry
And always remember the longer you live, the sooner you’re going to die.
(The song starts around 54:00, although you may want to listen to the whole concert.)
I was humming this song all day long today, finding it oddly cheerful. I wonder if it’s because of the song or the voice that gives it a voice. Or, perhaps, because it rained today and I was singing it to myself as I walked to the beach. Rains always make me happy, particularly when they are rare, like in the middle of the Chennai summer. Unlike my usual walks, I wasn’t thinking much; just singing my way to the sea. I might have been a little loud with the ‘bloody’ bit, for I did get some stares from a stranger or two. Or so I imagined. The sand was wet, and I found it amusing that the thing about sand, that the tighter you hold it the more it slips out of your hand, is not true if the sand is wet. I thought of a friend who would always tell me this thing about sand as a sort of metaphor for why one should not cling to the past or its people. I wonder what metaphor she would see in wet sand. Perhaps one for the past clinging to you, unwilling to let go?
It was the perfect afternoon, with grey skies, a downpour, people rushing to bus stops for shelter, waiting for the rain to subside. (It’s my idea of a perfect summer afternoon anyway!) The beach was almost deserted when I reached there, except for some kids. It was still raining, the raindrops making little dents on the surface of the sea before losing themselves to its vastness. The crowds started coming once the rains subsided a little, and the sky opened up a bit, showing patches of blue, grey, and orange. It was almost sunset. My favourite people on the beach are kids — spontaneous, and unashamed of their enthusiasm for the simple things, like seashells and crabs and crashing waves. Of course, not all kids like the sea. To some it’s exciting, to others it’s scary; there was a little girl who would laugh when the water touched her feet and whine when her mother took her away from the sea; there was also a little boy who was watching the sea from a distance when his father picked him and made him face the sea while he squealed in a fright of sorts. Parenting is delicate business.
I sat in the coffee shop, wondering if I could write something like the quintessential writer-sitting-and-scribbling-in-a-cafe. I asked for a regular cappuccino. Staring out into the eastern horizon, coloured by a greenish sea, an orange sky, brownish sand, and people in many colours, I thought of the brilliant brown of the burnt bread I toasted in the morning for breakfast. I also thought of how the other day I declined taking up a responsibility citing a crisis of credentials. I thought of truth, and I thought of beauty. I figured I prefer truth to beauty. Offer me truth and I will come with you all the way, and maybe we will find beauty somewhere. Offer me beauty, but if truth doesn’t have a say, I will not come your way. I thought about living in the ‘here’ and ‘now’ and how I used those words liberally there and then, how I would love to go hunting for poetry again, and how writing for me is often an act of letting go, of laying bare words that would otherwise weave a prison of my own making for me to wallow in my nostalgia, confusion, and the usual existential crises. I thought of heartbreaks, and wondered if it would help everyone to have at least one good heartbreak to heal them all.
At that point the cappuccino arrived, I looked at the heart-shaped foam on top, smiled, added sugar and the little heart dissolved in the coffee. The coffee was good.