Monday, December 19, 2011

Every morning a new arrival

(Written for my column "Monthly Misgivings" in Page Seven magazine)

I am not always very good to myself. I am talking not only about being kind and gentle to myself, but also about having the discernment to know and do what is good for me even when it is not gratifying right away. For instance, starting my day by logging into Facebook is one of the things that always throws me off balance. Of course, this is not a statement on Facebook or any other social networking site. They are what they are. This is about the use we put them to.

The other day, I started my day the way many of my friends start theirs - I got the usual morning things out of the way, put the kettle to boil, completely forgot about it, forgot to take my morning medication, forgot my previous night's resolve to start the next day with some yoga and meditation, but managed to remember that the laptop had had very little charge left on it when I'd closed it the night before, plugged it in, and logged into Facebook.

I think that all of those were very innocent actions that did not, by any stretch of imagination, deserve serious retribution or punishment. But I felt assailed by all the new feeds and status updates, many people's take on those news feed and status updates, and others' opinion on those takes on those news feed and status updates. Then there were those people who, in the little time I stayed logged out to get a decent night's sleep, had somehow managed to orchestrate a campaign, finish their most brilliant performance, won awards, given birth to babies, made most nuanced arguments about a most current issue, published articles that were already 'liked' by 746 people and commented on by 106, etc.

My heart raced, and I thought I had been left behind, that the world had moved on while I had done nothing with my life. After all, I could have written that brilliant article. After all, I could at least have read that article so that I could now post an intelligent comment. After all, I could be celebrating that anniversary if only....

Before I had taken the time to ground myself in the delicious mundaneness of my day, before I had made life-changing decisions about whether to eat peanut butter open toast or aval upma for breakfast, I had let into my unformed, delicate, full-of-potential morning the mind-blowingly diverse energies of hundreds of people, coming at me like supersonic darts pinning a disarmed me on to the dartboard of the lost moment. 

I admit that I am prone to the entire gamut of human emotions, which, of course, include insecurity, jealousy, anger and hurt. Rumi, the great Sufi mystic and poet, puts it most beautifully:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor

Welcome and entertain them all...*

Every morning is already full of its surprises. I would rather spend time preparing myself to receive, welcome and entertain them instead of cluttering myself with those I can avoid. Therefore, I have now made it a practice to sit with my fragile yet powerful self as soon as I wake up from my night's sleep; to hold this new day and this new me in a bubble of quiet before letting them open for other things to enter. 
* from Coleman Barks' translation of Rumi

Friday, December 2, 2011

My New Website! And a few other things.

Please check out my new website that is slowly shaping up: ! But don't worry, I will keep this blog going for as long as I can :)

I have been keeping myself very busy with some writing and other projects. Going off Facebook for a while, and slowing down the entire online portion of my life, have cleared out a lot of time and mental space for me to get some things done. I am also doing a small arts and crafts project! It will, hopefully, be part of some lovely decorations in a place that is the center of my heart's home, aka Lexington. Working with cardboard, paper, glue, scissors, etc. after a long time makes me feel like an excited kid. But the best part is my fascination of shiny, glittery things! They are cheering me up like nobody's business! What little of my queeniness lay dormant within me is now being unleashed :)

Yesterday, I danced as part of the University of Kentucky's World Music and Dance Concert at the Recital Hall, Singletary Center, Lexington. It was, truly, a very beautiful experience. The long applause I received at the end of the solo, pure dance piece I performed was truly gratifying, and so were the things people had to say to me at the end of the event. It reminded me, yet again, of why I do what I do!

Another thing: I am headed to India (Chennai) next week, and I am looking forward to several wonderful weeks of dancing and writing. I have many performances in December and January in Chennai and some prospective ones in February. I also have a book project to complete. Exciting!

What have you all been up to? 

Friday, November 18, 2011

What is your story?

(Written for my column Monthly Misgivings in Page Seven magazine)

What I take to be my most staggering insights often turn out to be common knowledge that I have been unaware of. When I talk about them in my customary, hyper-excited way to people, I leave many of them with a look of disappointment at my naiveté. But I still give myself some credit for arriving at the insights anew, by my own path, and in my own time. 

Here's my recent burst of epiphany: we can radically alter our stories about ourselves, our past, by just approaching those stories - our interpretations of the happenings of our past - differently. I know you feel like saying, "Uh, Duh!" But do stay with me. I admit that when expressed the way I just did, my so-called insight sounds like something quoted out of context from a self-help book. However, when you arrive at something from experience, when it is truly felt and known, or, to belabour my point, when it is an insight -- something that is seen with the inward eye, it can lead to profound shifts. 

Let me give you an example. Recently, I was answering questions for an interview in an e-magazine. There was a question there that I have always been asked in other situations. And I have given the same answer, the truth, but apologetically and trying hard to sound matter of fact and unromantic about it.

Whenever I am asked how I came to learn Bharata Natyam, I tell this story: when I was six years old, my parents saw me trying to drum rhythm on the dinner table while listening to Carnatic music on the radio in the mornings. They thought that I might be interested in learning to play the mridgangam. So on Vijayadasami, the last day of Navaratri that is considered auspicious for new beginnings, they took me to a wonderful arts institute in Kumbakonam, where we then lived. We walked along a corridor in the rooms along which classes for vocal music, violin, veena, dance, and mridangam were in progress. It so happened that in the room just before the one where mridangam was being taught -- and the idea was that I would learn to play the mridangam, a Bharatanatyam class was in progress. I stood at the entrance to the dance class and watched in rapture bodies moving in ways that my six year-old human self had not seen until then. And I told my parents that it was dance that I wanted to learn. 

That was what happened, and that is what I tell people. But I have always tried hard to make it sound like a mere statement of facts and not as a story that suggests that I chose, as a child, what I wanted to do with my life, that I answered my calling. I have repeated that story to myself and others as just something that happened and nothing more than a happy accident. Thanks to this, my self-talk about my relationship with dance has failed to acknowledge the beauty and conviction of another, more beautiful, interpretation. It is that I really did make a significant choice in that moment when I said to my parents that dance was what I wanted to learn. I wish I had a way of making my words express to you what a universe of difference that shift in interpretation makes to me now. I wish I could make you see what it means to me to re-imagine this incident with a sense of intention, volition and purpose. 

What was more amazing, though not unbelievable, was that just when I was getting a grip at this process of re-writing my past, a very wise and dear friend happened to talk about it to me. Just like that, without any prompting from me. It would only be too easy to dismiss such synchronicity as mere coincidence and to refuse to see everyday miracles for what they are.

I did not re-write a story of pain and suffering. I do not know how hard that could be. Thankfully, I started with very pleasant memory and bolstered it up by admitting intention, choice and decision to it. In the process, I gained a more nourishing, impassioned self-narrative. Do I even need to spell out the wonders such self-narratives can do?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Snap! Thud!

(Written for my column 'Monthly Misgivings' in Page Seven magazine)

Contrary to what some people think about me, I don’t do well at all in confusion and crisis. Actually, I am guilty of circulating this lie about myself in the hope that just saying it out loud would make it true. Turns out it doesn’t.  Some people manage to be like the proverbial eye of the storm and stay completely unperturbed by all the madness around them, or are perturbed but manage to find the inner resources that help them stay calm. Somehow, they become the reliable, rock-solid center that holds things from falling apart. Not me. I usually need a whack in the head from some sweet friend before I can calm myself down.

I remember reading a lovely analogy for a confused mind in a story about Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. He had likened a confused mind to a glass of muddy water. Nothing comes out of stirring it frantically. But if you let it sit undisturbed for a while, you can hope for the mud to settle down to the bottom leaving some clear water on top. This makes perfect sense, but why is it so hard to do?  I am all zen when everything is perfect. And when I think things are better than perfect, I smell the roses, fall in love with the sky, bask in the sun, and whip out a mushy status message for Facebook.  But the moment something goes wrong, I look like a hen roused from her dozing off while sitting on her precious eggs.

So you’d understand why some people are staring at me right now in this lovely café in San Francisco. They saw me change my mind three times about paying with cash or card; do a crazy balancing act of carrying my coffee in one hand, laptop in another, backpack slung across one shoulder, jacket over another, unable to decide where I wanted to sit, which sunny spot was sunnier than the others, and, in the process, drop my mug of coffee. The sound of porcelain shattering on the floor was what made me snap out of my fluster, s down, hold my face in my hands and close my eyes. And I heard the sweet lady who came to clean up the mess say the most comforting words I could have asked for: “It’s okay. Not the end of the world. I’ll fix you another one.”

There is a wonderful, healing work that our memory does. In helping us cope with loss, we can filter out the not-so-good times about a person, or a place, and retain only the ones that help us move on. This is also why sometimes the dead appear in a more forgiving light in stories about them.

Some, like me, could really abuse this therapeutic possibility of memory. I, for instance, use it to cope with relationships that have ended, in letting go of people who have moved on from my life. But I don’t stop with it. I push it further. In filtering out the remembrance of times that were painful, I even come to believe, by a circuitous logic, that they never happened. And I start believing that all I had was a lovely time that I have now lost by some stupidity of mine. This belief makes me hold on to the persons in my mind and not let go of them.

In such instances, a reality check is good. You can speak to someone who remembers you from those times, who can remind you what an emotional black-hole you were to hang out with, how a certain relationship was not good for you. Or there is a more fall-with-a-thud kind of a reality check – you end up revisiting the person or place for which you have built up a dangerously Eden-like nostalgia. And you get to see how far the reality is from the colourful machinations of your mind and memory. Thud!

Memory can be a good healer, but only as long as you allow it to do its work without thrusting your hidden agendas on it. Like with any healer, you should not start forming an unhealthy relationship of transference with it. If you do, memory, like any ethical healer or therapist, might tell you that your sessions would have to end.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

இப்பொழுதின் இத்-தனம்
அப்பொழுதின் அத்-தனத்தைப் போலவே
இருப்பதாகத் தோன்றிற்று. அத்தனை 
சிந்திப்பில் இப்பொழுது நழுவி 
அப்பொழுதாயிற்று. இத்தனை 
வேகமாய் விடைபெற்ற அப்பொழுதும் 
இப்பொழுது அதன் அத்-தனத்தைக் 
கைவிட்டு விலகிற்று
நினைவின் மெத்தனத்தில். 

Monday, October 10, 2011

I was just beginning to get used to death, when it chose to change its ways. Its scent, that once spread as strong as the slapping grin of a jasmined head in a sweaty bus, has ceased to be. It now has nothing to do with the disinfecting grin of hospital corridors, the scent of fear.

Death used to smell of a million things. Of coffee from a half-drunk cup, the soap that smoothed out the fall in the bathroom, the old starch of the saree that strangled, the car perfume fighting the blood-stench on the steering wheel, flesh arrested in it charring by a bucket of water thrown on it. But death is odorless for me now.

It has also taken the voices away. Many dear ones I mourn, I have forgotten how they sounded. I hear them in my own voice now, like I am reading them from a book. They have been muted out. So it is without the voices and the smells now. But hardly silent or unfamiliar. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

To Closures

Let me raise this glass of spiced tea to new closures, even though they smart on the soul like a hundred band-aids have been pulled out really fast, all at once. The scars make me a spotted creature. A strong, sinewy spotted creature. Or perhaps I am just wrapped in the skin of one. Like the god with the third eye, the one who dances both ends and new beginnings. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A song for the plain ones

There has to be a song
for the plain ones
The unaccomplished

A song for those who leave 
not even rhetoric Oh he was so much 
he did so much he was from so much
he made so much he was worth so much
he didn't deserve to go this way
not him not him
not him

There has to be a song for those
who go unnoticed like a fall leaf
among fall leaves lying
on fall leaves
He leaves she leaves they
leave we leave

But some are plucked 
picked folded
within pages of history
books Some deaths
are special They simply are
After all no one has tears
enough for all deaths not even
drama queens Too much information
bombards us too many posts
too many links updates feeds
of deaths of beatings of killings
One too many
it is hard too hard just
too hard to know which ones exactly
to cry for to fight for
to mourn to burn
one's hollow insides for

One has to choose
be sparing be eloquent
about deaths
some deaths
only some deaths Not all
Not even all
one hears of
You got to choose compare 
worth prices deals
It might be cheaper online
Do what you can
but choose See who cries
See who else cries
with who cries Thus
choose the death 
you will cry for

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Dear Paatti

I am thinking of you, grandmother. I could just call you. You are alive. But I am thinking of you now like I think of someone long gone. Forgive me for that. I will call you tomorrow, and we will talk about your mother, my great grandmother, the one who had many stories to tell. But someone will have to hold the phone to your ears. And you may not hear me properly. Or at all. 

You always spoke when I danced. I was your trophy. You'd ask me to dance for the guests. And when I danced, you always spoke about something else. "That one's daughter is getting married. Did you know?" And the guests were too polite to ask you to shut up. So I did. Or I think I did. I always wanted to. Forgive me for that.

I remember your stories of America. Your wore like a tiara the fact that you were the first woman in the family to go on an airplane. You went to hold death's jaws open for as long as you could. But dear uncle died anyway. You changed your saree, wore shoes and sweaters, ignored the meat-smeared dishes in the sink, and even overcame the shock of how much curry leaves cost. But you lost one of your sons anyway.

Can you tell me again that story, the one about how you were locked out one night in the snow and how scared you were? I have a similar story to swap with you. It may not have snow in it, but it does have fear and loneliness. I think you will understand.

I will call you tomorrow. And, as always, you will not ask me when I would get married. You have no idea how much I love you for not asking me that ever. 

I have many stories of your failings. But I will let go of them like you let go of that vegetable when you went to Kasi and never ate again. 

I will call you tomorrow and tell you I love you. It is very likely that you won't hear me, that you won't know that it is love that rolls in my throat. And someone will have to hold the phone to your ears.

That someone will put the phone down and tell you it was I who called. They will say it louder and closer to your ears. And you will burst into a toothless grin. You will ask where I called from. They will tell you. And your winged mind will soar high above the reach of your shaking arms and hurl its love over the oceans to me. 

I love you, too. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Trust Your Bells

For Shailja Patel, a dear friend who reminded me never to judge my work on the basis of how much money it brings, that in this capitalist world, which refuses to value the practice of art as labour (unless done within certain regimes of oppression), our very existence, our persistence at performing, writing and practising whatever art it is that we practise, are important. Of course, our concerns for our material well-being and achievement of recognition are valid and important, but they need have no bearing on how we value our work. 

(Written for performance)

You will be told many things.

For instance, you'll be told
that art isn't labour,
That it comes from sinuous vapours
rising from burning, idle hearts,
That it is not important, 
That it has never ended wars,
though nor have governments.

What does not value
art's labour
or yours
likes to hear
you judge yourself and
your artistry
for failing to bring in the buck
for your perpetual bad luck.
It smiles when you hide -
swallowing your pride -
your pen and palette.
You can hear it chortle 
when you throttle 
your ankle bells under a pillow.
It grins when your scrounge
and scrape and
grovel and gape.

But in exchange for your songs
about empires,
your dance of wrath
about plunder, what tears
your world asunder,
or even your hymn
for your gods and goddesses, 
in exchange for your truths,
your soul, your heart,
it will clothe you
in its banners. Flex is
the new haute couture,
the fabric of submission,
of surrender. 

You keep your rage, you
lie on your pillow and with your 
fingers make the bells on your anklet
toll. When you put them on,
implore them to be both
death's little doorbells
and love's little chorus,
as they will,
as they see fit.
Let them drag your feet,
take you to your truths,
to the dark cave where
your soul sits in hiding.
The bells on your feet
they see, they sing,
they huddle and conspire,
they keep in them your fire,
they remember when you swaggered,
when your aching feet faltered, and
when they stomped to the ground
all meanness,
they remember your gait,
your rhythm, your falling,
but they remember too
your getting up.
Trust their buckled wisdom,
trust even the ones that have lost 
their beads and are toothless - they will
speak anyway. Trust your bells
to teach you to dance
your dance. Trust your bells
and dance. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pills or Reasons

You ought to have reasons for your feelings.
Or pills. 
You cannot have a cold despair come
and sit in your heart just like that.
Not in the middle of a sunny day.
Not without a reason. Have a pill
If you will. 
See a shrink.

I was sad the other day. Just sad. 
For once, sad was the apt word.
It closed with the airtight click of a tupperware lid.
Language sufficed, and that almost cheered me up.
But a friend said, "Don't despair." 
He could see clearer than me
the weekly forecast to the weather in my heart.

A poet suggested I keep myself at arms length.
It became hard to navigate crowded streets
and subway stations. My arm is long
and it slams across the faces of multitudes.

I now sit with the sadness,
the despair and the arm reddened with the slam
of faces passing by. Myself sits close by,
for fall has arrived
and a sudden chill makes you want to huddle
with whoever's closest. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Charm Against Things That Have No Place In Me

"The bells on my feet rage in rhythm
against your smallness. They toll
for things that have no place
in me, no walls with crevices
to leave their seeds in
to grow and undo. 

I stomp to the ground the hatred you throw at me
to keep, water and whisper.
I adorn myself to set myself apart
from your plundering away at molehills of pettiness...

Any darkness there is, lies smeared around my eyes,
reminding me to seek 
to see more clearly. I peel the clouds from my eyes 
and leave them by the side. 

What lies in my gut is timeless 
and it rises and flows through me now.
It comes out not as a cry of despair
but as the dance of de
ath, of ends,
and new beginnings.

Little acts of healing and coping

(Written for my column in Page Seven Magazine)

Whenever I find myself doing dishes in the sink with too much passion, I know that I am sorting through some issues in my head. I scrub away at the oil and grime, and feel a wonderful sense of healing as I see them go down the drain leaving a clean, soaking wet dish in my hand. Does that sound weird? When I announced that I love washing dishes, many people offered to have me live with them. I think I should not dismiss this as an idea, because I already sort of function in the gift economy mode, trading food for work, work for work, etc. But this may not be the appropriate place to go into what transactions I engage in on an everyday basis.

One of my friends tells me that spending time weeding in her garden gives her that sense of healing. I know she really means it. A couple of days ago, I finished watching two movies on the internet while she was lost to the world, bent to the earth in her backyard, weeding away. To each her own, I guess. I have not done much gardening in my life. My mother used to have a beautiful rose garden, and she took great delight in taking care of them, talking to them, thanking them for their colour, fragrance and abundance. Sometimes, if a plant was dying, she would go to it several times a day and speak to it very gently. And my therapy was vicarious, in that I found great healing and love just watching her talk to the plants.

I talk to gadgets all the time, if that counts. The first printer I had at home was a great conversationalist, but not a very compassionate one. When I had to print out several drafts of my Masters dissertation, I spoke to my printer more than I spoke to my parents or friends. One day, when I was in the middle of a passionate plea to my printer to let me print a few pages before it started wheezing and whining, the phone rang. It was my dissertation supervisor who already had strong misgivings about my sanity. When she heard me shout at the printer, she took pity on my condition and extended the deadline for the submission of the draft. She saw it as emotional disturbance that warranted compassion.

Another task I love is ironing clothes. It is especially so when I have issues to sort out, which is, actually, all the time, but sometimes I don't sort them out. I just let them gain weight and sink beneath the surface so that I can go on with my life. But, of course, they resurface soon with vengeance, and it is not pretty sight. So let's not go there. 

But when I do iron clothes, I really get into it. I feel like I am ironing out the creases from my life. It is a wonderful feeling. Of course, when I said this to friends, they were like, "Oh you can iron our clothes, if you want more healing." But that's the thing - it was only recently that I learnt to stick to ironing the wrinkles out of my clothes alone. Others' clothes are their business. They might actually be going for the creased and crinkled look. You never know.

Back to the dishes. It is amazing how quickly they pile up. You want to clean them all before you go to bed, so that you can wake up to a clean sink in the morning and feel like a success in life. But you give into the sloth that comes after that terrific dinner, and go to bed right after that second glass of wine. When you wake up the next morning and come to the kitchen for some coffee, there the dirty dishes are, piled up like the easy debris of your weak will and determination, mocking you.

Should I be going for therapy? Please tell me it is normal to go through these emotions, that some of you can relate to this madness. Help me out here, please!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

From Public Humiliations to Personal Victories

(written for my column in the Media Voice magazine)

Recently, I popped open a bottle of champagne over completing ten driving lessons. If you don’t know me, it is very likely that you wonder what the big deal about that is. I had reached a turning point in conquering my fear of driving, and it called for a celebration! Actually, to be more specific, I was celebrating my managing not to knock off a poor cyclist with a large stack of eggs on the back stand. I was also celebrating the very backhanded compliment that my surly driving instructor gave me when I wondered if I’d ever be able to drive. He said, “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course you can… (powerful pause)… All sorts of morons do.”

Generally, I am not very good at making people feel good about themselves, but when someone gives me a ride in their car, by the time I get dropped, they usually feel like epic heroes. I am so keen on letting them know how much in awe of them I am, for the fact that they could drive, that they are usually beaming with self-love by the time I get down. Well, my little service to humanity.

But, seriously, I hope you do celebrate your small victories. You don’t need a bottle of champagne. To be truthful, I didn’t have one either. The booze situation in Chennai is cause for serious depression. That’s for a separate discussion.

Personal victory number two: I found a way to make me do things I procrastinate on. Public humiliation. Of course, for this to have its effect, you must be the kind that is shamed into action by public humiliation. I have started appointing people who would call me out on my dithering and laziness on my Facebook wall! And several other trusted Facebook friends add bitchy comments to it, adding to the humiliation. This propels me into finishing whatever it is that I am supposed to be finishing. Also, my friends who crack the whip are smart enough to make their postings when I am fast asleep, so before I see them and delete them, there is a litany of nasty comments by so-called friends.

Personal victory number three: For the first time in my life, I managed to take a powernap in the afternoon, and I could call it a powernap without adding any air-quotes around it. My “powernaps” usually last  anywhere between an hour and a half and two hours. This one lasted twenty minutes, and I sprang to action right after. How did I manage this? The aforementioned, self-arranged public humiliation on Facebook acted as a loud snooze in my pretty, sleeping self and pushed me right off the bed in twenty minutes. Also, the vivid image of my friend walking in circles around me and giving me whiplashes for stalling work was not entirely conducive for a pleasant siesta.

Of course, for any of this to work, you need to be the kind that is discomfited by humiliation, and not tickled by it! Also, you need friends who don’t mind being ruthless with you. Trust me, we all have friends who would pounce at an opportunity to play the cruel coach. This week it is my turn to crack the whip on a friend who needs some pushing to get some work done. Oh boy! The things he will get done before I am through with him!

Ah, but what are friends for ;)

Aniruddhan Vasudevan dances, acts, writes, travels, cooks, and does a host of other things that cannot be listed without inviting serious censorship trouble

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Watched Phone Does Not Ring...

(Written for my column "Monthly Musings" in Media Voice magazine)

SMS romances are at once exhilarating and nerve-wracking, not to mention expensive if you are on the wrong cellphone plan. For some of us who are running around like headless chickens, heart puffed with self-importance (okay, may be that's just me), with little or no time for a relaxed, caffeine-overloaded romance, conducting an affair over text messages can appear to be a tantalizing option. I mean, who wouldn't like the relief of typing out a short, corny message while suffocating in a conference room somewhere debating how well a project is going, how targeted is the intervention under question, does the said target need the said intervention, does the said intervention actually target the said target, is the target too widespread, is the intervention too weak, etc., with tabular columns and numbers swirling over one's head?

That was how I got fooled. After some defenceless SMS-romancing, I now realize that I need to have a strong sense of self not only to conduct an actual romance, but even to type out clipped cliches over flaky networks. If you are the kind that would get nail-bitingly anxious when the reply comes a couple of minutes late, SMS romance may not be for you. It calls for a stronger constitution. I know, because I write this from the local rehabilitation center for post-paid-coital depression (again, it is based on your cellphone plan).It could push you over the edge and make you a full-fledged whacko instead of just the borderline case that you are right now.

My cellphone bears the scars of all my insecurities and impatience. If it were a computer, I'd probably refresh the screen a million times to see if the reply to my email has arrived. Not that I have done it, not that I have assaulted several mouses by clicking on them endlessly to refresh a page. I am just speaking hypothetically...But since this is a phone, and since I travel a lot and am a casualty to wobbly cellphone signals all over the country, I keep turning the phone off and on hoping that would bring the loving messages flooding in. And in the few-minute long delay that occurs before phone vibrates along the table excitedly announcing a reply, I'd imagine the person has lost interest, is losing interest, might be losing interest, will lose interest eventually anyway, etc. The voice of whoever is speaking at the said conference would fade out and I would start hearing a million voices in my own head: Why hasn't he replied? How can I salvage this? What should I say in my next message? Or should I wait for his message first? Am I acting desperate? The only unequivocal answer is to the last question: Yes.

Then in an attempt to attenuate the edges of my neurosis, I'd bring down my fidgeting by a few notches. This is when I would start staring at the phone, squinting almost, believing, naively, that my poring eyes, which normally have trouble reading small fonts, would somehow make the phone ring, make the SMS reply appear when I want it to. But this is where recycled age-old wisdom, albeit originally about pots, gently whispers: The watched phone does not ring.