Manifested Apocalypse

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I feared many things as a child: thunderstorms, plane crashes, the bubonic plague come alive from the pages of books, every flea the potential carrier of a manifested apocalypse.

In all these things, a single binding thread shot through. I never feared losing myself. Only others. I wanted them gathered around me, so that if anything happened, it happened to us all. The dead do not mourn each other.

Today, Mumbai burned. Some have likened it to the events of September 11 2001. I don’t know whether or not it is. But I do know that both times, I cried. Cities I do not know, but know I must get to know.

As someone in a long-distance relationship, events like these rouse particularly tender nerves. To get to the one I love I will need a visa, air tickets, a flight. A friend once told me about a heartrending reality of her relationship: as the half-a-lifetime younger partner of someone whose first wife was very influential, she will not be allowed to go her partner’s funeral when he dies.

This is not the first time I have been in a portmanteau love, split between places. But this is the first time it has been an unwilling separation. I spent the initial couple of months in a sort of morbid surreality. When my partner travelled and didn’t call as planned, I Googled for crashes between origin and destination. There was one time when I actually found one, and I remember feeling all the blood literally rush to my head. The feeling lasted until I realised it was an old report.

My partner and I both moved countries in an effort to carve a viable future out for ourselves, together and apart. It’s been worth it for us both professionally. It has not been worth it otherwise, and these terrorist attacks remind me of it. Reading Sonia Faleiro’s post on being extremely close to one of the points of attack, I thought: blessed are those who are safe because the ones they love are near them.

Recently, a foreign newspaper wrote that the “cultural vibrancy” of my city gives me all the inspiration I need. That isn’t true. In the year since I moved back, I’ve had a certain degree of material success. I’m not ungrateful for this. However, there are things which a healthy bank balance and career recognition cannot rectify. Such as how I watch my back around here, because it’s evident that I am admired but not supported – I am surrounded by crocodile smiles put on because I’m an interesting person to “know”. Such as how I count less than a handful of people here as real friends. Such as how I never fully recovered from the trauma of leaving a city I knew almost as home, because I am still not home. Such as how with my grandmother’s death, I live in a house with a steadily decreasing amount of affection directed my way.

What then, does this mean for me? I don’t know yet. I was talking to a friend about Oprah’s quintessential question tonight: what do you know for sure? I know for sure that in a world increasingly fraught with uncertainty, the distances we place between our selves are only that. Distances we place between ourselves. Distances we choose to.

We were once together in an earthquake. I was angry. “I don’t want to die with you,” I said.

I lied.

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6 responses »

  1. I do know one thing for sure. There are quite a few good things to live/fight for, even in this city, even if not immediately apparent.

    But, perhaps not bubonic plague.

  2. “We were once together in an earthquake. I was angry. “I don’t want to die with you,” I said.

    I lied.”

    21 words. And the best short I’ve read this year, m’dear. Whether you intended it or not.

  3. I just want to send my love to the people of India and all affected by the tragedy of the past days. I’ve been planning to visit India next year; I do not know now. What I do know for sure (living here in NYC) is that we cannot allow
    Such senseless madness to keep peace loving people worlds apart.

  4. To live through this nightmare almost paralyzed our faith in anything human or greater than human. It’s changed our mental, spiritual and political landscapes. I’ve watched it happen in places far away – Israel, Kashmir, Darfur – but to have fierce gun battles rage in my own backyard, nope, nothing could have prepared me.
    And it reminded of the that time in 2001 when I chose to leave someone behind in New York only to feel so entirely helpless when I couldn’t trace him for days on end after the twin towers collapsed.
    :(
    Sadness.

  5. these time of tragedy make me feel that India is my long distance love.

    i told her that i wanted to die with her.

    i lied.

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