Something is wrong. Something is terribly wrong.
A few days back, a dear friend gave me a coffee mug, where she had pasted lines from my favourite poem, Robert Graves’ “In Broken Images.” A lot of thought went on to making the mug, and I appreciate it. It’s a precious gift. Therefore, it makes me sad. Because I know, for sure, soon I’ll lose the mug. It will either be broken or stolen, and something else. In short, it will simply disappear from my life. I am certain of it. It has happened to me before, without fail. I have lost most of the gifts I have received, and they were all precious.
Recently, I have returned from the local police station. I have lost my office I-card, and they need an FIR before they would issue me a new one. This is the second time I have visited a police station. Sometime back, I had lost my mobile phone, and I needed an FIR for the cellphone company to give me the same number.
I loath the idea of going to a police station. The policemen in their khaki give me the creeps. I guess I am influenced by the Hindi movies, where the police are the creepy lot. My experience at the police station was not particularly bad, probably due to the nature of my job. But, given a choice I won’t visit a police station.
There are thing I have lost which may have warranted an FIR. But I have avoided doing this. Then there are stuff I have lost about which I cannot tell anyone, least of all, the police.
And, the trend of losing stuff continues. The other day, I lost my comb. It was there near the mirror the previous day, and then, it disappeared, poof, vanished. And, once it’s lost, I won’t get it back.
As the summer approaches, I remember the mango-yellow cotton shirt a friend from Canada got me from the local Fab India store. I love the shirt. Now, I don’t know where I have lost it. Is it the laundry guy who lost it? Sometimes back, after a particularly bad month, when I had exhausted all my clothes and had nothing clean to wear, I had carted all my clothes to a nearby laundry. We counted around 35 pieces of clothing. A week later, when I went to collect them, the laundry guy could give only 25 pieces. The rest he said was misplaced and he would find it soon. Somehow, I forgot all about it and by the time I would remember that I was missing my favourite pair of trousers, a year had passed by.
I guess it all began after I lost the ultimate marker that defined my life. R, the love of my life. I was a different man when I met R. I was a different man when I was with R. I was a different man when I broke up with R. I was a different man when R died.
When I had broken up with R, I wasn’t ready to give up. But, when R died, everything ended. After that day, nothing was permanent. I did not want anything anymore, not even my life, least the material manifestations of R’s memories — the shirt R brought me, the books we collected together, the movies we saw together, the songs we heard together...
Now, after I have lost all of those, along with the physical presence of R (sometime how I long for a touch, a mere touch, the hand in the hand...), I miss those material manifestations. I regret losing my wallet last year, not for the money, or the credit cards. Yes, the credit card. Since the disappearance of R, I had been carrying an out-of-date credit card that belonged to R. The card was for me a token to remind me that I had really experienced love, it wasn’t a dream (or a nightmare.)...
I have lost the pocket watch I got from my first month’s salary in my first job. I lost a beautiful pendant with a huge semi-precious stone that my friend got from Tehran. I have lost my father’s engagement ring, an actually gold ring. I don’t care about the gold part of it, but the ring was invaluable, and I know that I won’t get it back. But sometimes I dream that I would be walking on the busy sidewalks, and will find the ring lying there on the roadside, waiting for me, the way I still look at my mobile at the middle of the night expecting R to give me call...
I have lost the gun-shaped lighter, another gift, my music player with all the Elton John and Dire Straits songs, the pair of shoes that I had forcibly taken from a friend. I have lost my two teeth after a particularly bad drunken night... I have lost my future.
In those moments, I find solace in Elizabeth Bishop, especially her poem “One Art.” She tells me I am not the only one:
By Elizabeth Bishop
The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster,
Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
-- Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) a disaster.
And here’s the Robert Graves poem:
In Broken Images
By Robert Graves
He is quick, thinking in clear images;
I am slow, thinking in broken images.
He becomes dull, trusting to his clear images;
I become sharp, mistrusting my broken images,
Trusting his images, he assumes their relevance;
Mistrusting my images, I question their relevance.
Assuming their relevance, he assumes the fact,
Questioning their relevance, I question the fact.
When the fact fails him, he questions his senses;
When the fact fails me, I approve my senses.
He continues quick and dull in his clear images;
I continue slow and sharp in my broken images.
He in a new confusion of his understanding;
I in a new understanding of my confusion.
(PS. I still remember how a friend of mine gave me a detailed account of how much money I have been losing since 2005, the year I left a college teacher’s job in the backwaters of Ahmednagar district, to take up the underpaying job of a journalist. I was never good at maththemetics. But today, six years later, I wish I had some more money than I have.)