Due to Covid, it was impossible to meet all the friends together so the birthday celebrations got extended. To a part of me, honestly, It has seemed like a slight vulgarity. In the middle of a pandemic to party, I realize is insensitive. But one is struggling with something these days and someday when one has overcome it, one will write about it. But for now, that kind of sharing has been deemed unadvisable.
For a person who hated her birthday and has invariably wept on each one, I’m really going at celebrating it, with a vengeance after a certain age. Anyhow, last night, was the last one. It was an eventful evening, to say the least. The ambience lovely, the food not so much. But a friend made a very valid observation about my existence. In the middle of a conversation about something else, she said, ‘you can’t lead the life that you lead and then feel bad when people gossip about it. Either don’t care or if it bothers you make different choices!’ Wise words.
This is the second time in a week and probably more than a dozen time in one’s life, that one has heard some version of this sentence. But to me, though well meaning, it sounds like I don’t have much of an option. It’s like, If you’re not going to follow society’s rules, the repercussion of that is going to be, that anyone can turn around and accuse you of anything, that you haven’t done, at any point, just because they have a mouth and you haven’t bothered to be a hypocrite to brush your choices under the carpet or you don’t have a man to hide behind. Henceforth, don’t throw a fit, just bite the bullet, don’t be unreasonable by confronting it. I guess, my silence is supposed to be the payment one has to make for one’s life choices- not being married, choosing a certain profession, having a lifestyle- which seems all fun and frolic, being open about my relationships- having been in more relationships than a good Indian girl, would probably be in three lifetimes and a naughty Indian boy, in a couple of years. Sorry for the deets, I’m just putting things in perspective. It’s good advice- gracious, definitely, practical of course, reasonable and it will make one slightly likeable ( here’s hoping) I guess.
But hearing that ‘you’re starving your father’ or ‘ eloping’ ‘having an affair with a different man’ every few days, honestly pisses the hell out of me. I wish I could be calm about it or even take my Dad’s advice,’ concentrate on your work and stop worrying about people who only want to steer trouble in our house. You have better things to do in life!’ Or even take the advice of my male friends, ‘ just take out your anger on us! Don’t say anything, to anybody else!’ Am I being too sensitive, too touchy, too unreasonable? I’m sure, I am! Do I wish, I could laugh it away? Hell, yeah! Not be reactive and give people another round of bullshit to spread through the grapevine? Of course! What are the chances of it happening? Unfortunately, at the moment, seems highly improbable.
Post birthday celebrations continued with friends, this week. The culmination of it was today. What a euphoric day! Spent the afternoon with a friend at Bo Tai, then went to the park to lie in the sun. Got dirty looks from the lovers, who hated the intrusion. Made my way to the Dargah. Spent a few hours there till I could feel the depressive thoughts of the past few months, leaving my body. Mujhe aap ne bulaya yeh karam nahin to kyaa he?
Yesterday, was Ghalib’s birthday and all the heritage walk leaders/ historians, I know shared nuggets from his life. Today I saw a lovely video by Aditya Pathak, about Ghalib and seeing that I thought I should write something about the man, who other than Harivansh Rai, Kaifi Azmi and Javed Akhtar and much later, Pablo Neruda, got me through many turbulent nights.
Ghalib was in another league, of course. One does suffer from existential angst, for unrequited love, separation and heartbreak, one found solace in Mirza Asadullah Beig’s poetry. Hum bikhre hue, bigde hue, sharab peene wallo ko, jo khudda he woh to mante he, magar duniya aur mazahb me nahin, unke liye Ghalib mian, ek humnawa he. Ek humsafar, jo Janat ki hakeekat jaanta he. Ghalib, may be a passing fascination for the pious, religious lot but for us cynics, he’s our fellow traveller, who has experienced unbearable loss and who died without an offspring. Unke baare me padh kar lagta he, yeh jee liye to hum bhi, jee hi lenge!