Print Edition - 2015-12-26  |  On Saturday


  • To discover self-love is no small adventure. Some never allow the doors of these ancient chambers to open
- Bhushita Vasistha
Narcissus is a peculiar flower. Its nourishment comes from the deep exploration and acceptance of one’s own self.Freud must have a different explanation, of course

Dec 26, 2015-When I was thirteen years old, I received my first love-letter. Each alphabet appeared thin, almost quivering. It was a cold Februaryafternoon. I unfolded the letter and scanned it briefly. A few words stood out vividly. Love, you,constellation, raincoat, you, night, you, you, you.It was the first time anyone had written a letter to me with so many yous. A strange pleasure took hold of me. I decided to read it more closely later in the evening, when I would finally have some privacy. Throughout the day, I blushed to myself thinking about it.

A few months earlier, I had been kissed for the first time, by a man whom I had rather loved. I cannot recall exactly how the moment to the kiss had built up but I do remember how swiftly all the particles around us had come to a halt. I was trapped inside the walls of flimsy, sticky membrane, which suddenly enveloped us both, separating us instantly from the world outside. The chamber felt both strange and familiar at the same time. Inside the walls, time had condensed itself into a shiny little blob, like a drop of mercury.  

We had been immersed in a discussion about the cheap replica of the Monalisa that hung on his wall. He was at least ten years older than me. He was talking about feminine beauty, how it retains its glory in an act of inner withdrawal. Inner withdrawal in the sense the more withdrawn a woman is to herself, the more that abyss pulls men. Somebody was walking outside in the balcony. And for no reason the sound of the footsteps irritated me. I closed my eyes. The sun was dull and the air humid. He kept on blathering—losing me with every sentence. And then he went quiet. I stayed that way—eyes closed, not speaking—bored and irritated. And suddenly a warm, sweet breath, breezed across my face. I opened my eyes. He was leaning close to me. Our eyes met. And everything else froze. We were trapped inside the delicate wall, sticky with an impulse that demanded to be felt. The world outside faded and our own heartbeats resounded inside that chamber with an alarming echo.

I didn’t know what it meant to be penetrated, how the hollows in our bodies demanded to be filled—both metaphorically and otherwise. I was aware of the hollowness inside me. Sometimes, I felt a maddening urge to shrink, to shrivel into this hollow to nothingness. There were tunnels that expected visitors, or so it seemed to me. But who were these visitors, who visits such dreary tunnels? And what tunnels are theseanyway?Until he thrust his tongue inside my mouth, I didn’t realise my mouth was a tunnel too. I felt his hand on the nape of my neck pulling me towards him. I was reluctant. I remember crossing my legs and while doing so I felt the wetness between them. His warm, heavy tongue slowly but determinately explored the tunnel that was my mouth. His inquisition was urgent and yet delicately patient. His warm strokes illuminated strange walls inside my mouth. My mouth was an ancient city, where suddenly ten thousand lights had been lit. And there were treasures and he appeared to have discovered, a few that he truly treasured. I became aware of my vagina that day. And the awareness hit me forcefully. I understood what he meant by inner withdrawal. I had a cyclone inside me and it pulled all the experiences of my life towards its core with violent force.

Throughout my life, I have been told, at times light-heartedly, at times reproachfully, that I am narcissistic. I almost try to talk to them about the cyclone, after my discovery of it, but then I tell myself that had they really known it, they wouldn’t have been so blasé. They would have understood this solitary romance, the base, where the beautiful flower of narcissism opens. To discover self-love is no small adventure. Some never allow the doors of these ancient chambers to open. Some allow a few visitors and rely on them to tend to their garden. Only a few dare to walk into this private garden and tend to it themselves. Narcissus is a peculiar flower. Its nourishment comes from the deep exploration and acceptance of one’s own self. Freud must have a different explanation, of course. But he was no narcissist and I forgive him on this account alone.

After the kiss, I stopped speaking to that person. I do not know why. I can rationalise now but I really do not know why. He opened the way to this secret garden and left me to explore it. The flowerbed was quavering with seeds that had decided to germinate.So, the letter!When I finally read the letter, in the comfort of my own privacy, with so many yous—there were at least, fifteen of them—I felt a strange satisfaction. It wasn’t pride. I can’t deny but I did feel a bit smug. But the letter made the ‘you’ so important, so dear, so precious to someone. The letter made a woman of me.

Thirteen years have passed since I received that letter. The memories came flooding back when a few days ago my friends and I were discussing our first kiss. I remembered the kiss and the letter and it made me nostalgic, the kind that spreads warmth throughout your body.

The letter was written by a newspaper boy to whom I had given my raincoat. He didn’t have one and it looked like it was going to rain soon. Despite his refusals, I had convinced him to take my raincoat. We had spoken for the first time and the last. The next day I woke up to find the roll of newspaper and a neatly folded raincoat on our balcony. A few months later, I received the letter.

I struggled to decipher his sentences. When I finally managed to read the entire letter, it left me in a state of mute euphoria. The letter read something like:

I am the one you had given your raincoat to. I have thought about you often but only now can I gather enough courage to write. I have been an orphan and I do not remember much about my parents. I have been living with my uncle and aunt for as long as I remember. I cannot say I have always been happy and content. In fact, I have spent more unhappy nights than happy ones. But when I am unhappy I always looked outside the window and see the constellations in the sky. I believe that is what they are called. They look like a parade of cheerful bright things. I look at them and feel a strange reassurance. I feel home. When I saw you for the first time. I felt I saw a constellation in you.


Published: 26-12-2015 09:10

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