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Posted in Musings

Nirvana

Catharsis is Nirvana.

Cave drawings. Parchments heavy with emotion. Journals soaked in pale ink and vivid memories. An envelope braving the world in search of another. Splashes of paint rebelling against grey walls.

Black letters on a white screen spilling from my fingertips.

Posted in Verses

Ember

Perhaps you'll forever remain 
A glowing ember
In my heart;
A bit of warmth,
A touch of hope,
A fleeting flame for pensive nights.

While ashen dreams 
And amber sparks
Feed on loose strands of soul
I laugh and dance
In a manic trance
Of ritual sacrifice.

As I hold you close
Amidst the wisps of smoke,
I wonder, yet again -
Why is it
that my charred fingertips
Refuse to let you go?







Posted in Verses

Claustrophobia

I think I am beginning to feel claustrophobic, with the weight of my multiple personalities closing in on me.

One facet for friends, another for family, another for strangers. Another for the inner circle. Yet another for me.

I stand at crossroads and wonder which road to take, who to turn to, which mask to don, how much to bare, and when.

The steps that I take are measured, and I am tired of the endless algorithms that run my conscience and the pointless nodes that mark every decision, and yet at the end of it all, I find myself wondering yet again –

Which road to take, who to turn to, which mask to don, how much to bare, and when.

Who to block, who to face, what emotions to release.

What to speak, what to hide, where to run when it all collides.

My head swirls as I smile and I sigh and I exhale and I scream, as if all this were but a distant dream that I would want to get rid of and rise out of, pristine; and have clear water finally run off with the dirt of my skin.

To be free, liberty, aren’t these words but a sham, when I refuse to own up to all that I am?

Posted in Musings

The Best Days Of My Life

Thanks to NG, I’ve been eating quite well for the past week, ever since I got my COVID positive report and isolated myself to my room. Every morning, afternoon and evening, the food would appear on the staircase, in front of the main door, along with a ring of the doorbell or phone or both. Today I started sustaining myself again, and surprise, surprise, Nutella was a big part of it.

As I bit into my fifth slice of bread (that I couldn’t even be bothered to toast), I couldn’t help wondering about the massive amounts of nutty chocolatey goodness that was, no doubt, settling along my arteries as well as aiding in the recent swift transformation of my waist from concave to convex. Just the other day, a friend had sent his medical reports full of various exploding lipids, and I KNOW I should be getting myself one soon.

I’m getting old, y’all.

*Cue nostalgic music on violin*

Ah, to be young again. To gorge on chips and bread and chocolates and yet remain underweight. To be able to walk up a flight of stairs without falling to the earth gasping for air. To be able to lie in bed for extended periods of time without having to manually flex your long-dead knee, plant you numb feet on the ground and walk for an hour before the pins and needles disappear. Ah, to be in my 20s again… the best and most blessed phase of my –

*Violin screeches to a stop*

Wait a minute. How were the 20s the best part of my life? All th classes I never prepared for, all the messy relationships, recurring mood swings, the constant feeling of being broke and worthless and clueless and on the verge of failing every exam and yet trying so hard to be “cool”. Ugh.

Teenage?

Ah yes. School wasn’t so bad. I always got great grades and all the teachers loved me and… oh. All the kids hated me. God, I was such a snob. Goodie-goodie and frankly, not very nice to most of my classmates. No wonder I failed the election for class president. Not to mention the glorious onset of suicidal ideation. Nope. I would NOT want to be back there.

Childhood?

Damn, I was always such an insecure kid, wasn’t I. Never had anyone my own age and hated being with the ‘kiddos’. Couldn’t wait to grow and hang out with people capable of carrying on a conversation. So that’s out too.

And here I am now, early 30s with the body starting to let me know of its existence and all.

Damn.

I suppose I’ll just have to come to terms with the fact that I’ve never had and possibly never will have a “best time of my life”. But then, I’ve certainly had great days – numerous ones – and they are peppered throughout.

There’s the day I mustered all the courage I had and recited my favourite poem in front of a crowd in high school. There’s the day MB got drunk and danced like an idiot on the rooftop for Christmas. There’s the night I got drunk and kept sending flying kisses to him in front of our friends. There’s the day I put on the title track from Dear Zindagi and rode with K with our hair flying, on the famous road to Anjuna beach. There’s the days I spent fooling around in the hostel dormitory. There are the nights I spent kissing my Geet and the days I spent in her eyes. There is the day A taught me how to ride a bike. There is the night we spent munching on crepes while moving to the crowd’s rhythm at a Spandan concert. And there are the many many that are yet to come.

*Cue soft piano music*

Fin.

Posted in Musings

Whoosh Whoosh

As I stood on the balcony, I could hear the typical swooshing sound coming from opposite directions – from the two ends of the street. From my vantage point, I could see what could be termed as a quintessential morning sight in rural India representing all generations leading up to mine – women up and about in the morning, bending down with one arm behind their back and the other clearing away leaves and debris from their front-yard with a broom typically made of the dried spines of coconut leaves. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. They swept in unison, as if to the will of an invisible conductor guiding them to be in sync. Tied together in a mundane task, unknown to themselves, each aware of only one’s own path. Another joins, and yet another, and the symphony grows.

Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh.

I walked back in, wondering what intricate, elaborate, oblivious symphonies I might be taking part in today.

Posted in Journal

To 2021, With Love

I did a post back in 2016 summing up everything that went right that year. It was supposed to be an yearly event. But of course, like all my personal projects, none of the other posts saw the light of day. The 2020 one came close to fruition, but it kept getting postponed and then putting out an year end post in mid-January didn’t make sense. In any case, here we are now.


You have been the most spectacular year of my life.

Now, I won’t lie, it wasn’t all great. I think both of us can agree that the first half pretty much made me want to kill myself. And not figuratively. How naive I was to imagine that MB taking up residency in this place was going to be good for us. It was nothing short of a miracle that he got in (sorry, 2020 gets credit for that), and yes, we knew it was going to be difficult, but we couldn’t possibly have imagined how bad it was going to get. The dingy hostel room, the language barrier with the patients, the protocols, the physical toll, the lack of sleep and food, getting accustomed to the data management systems – for the first time in my life, I watched MB crumble with negativity and become this pale ghost of a person I barely knew anymore. He couldn’t drop out either; we didn’t have the money to pay the hefty penalty that entails leaving a chosen course. That feeling of being utterly trapped… neither of us had ever felt it so acutely before.

Inevitably, you gave me my first major depressive episode in years. But it was nothing compared to the next, was it?

You broke my heart. And you did it so damn well.

You cut along the scarred faultlines, unearthing the silver veins that lay forgotten across the length and breadth of my being and sliced them open to reveal a blood-streaked deja vu. You branded me with the embers of lost memories and half-cooked dreams and unravelled a decade worth of recovery. You disrupted my very sense of existence, had me dissolve into a bottomless chasm of desperation and nearly, very nearly, destroyed me.

And then managed to make up for all of it.

You made me the happiest person in the world on so so many days that I started losing count.

MN got selected for a summer school course with World Health Organisation. SR moved out of his town and is finally living on his own for the first time. TR got married after nearly 5 years of making it work long distance and fighting every possible barrier. SE managed to enrol in a fully funded learning program on EIS. ERN managed to get a permanent post as a scientist in a central government institute. (This is certainly one of the sweeter ones because I was the one who asked him to apply. “You may not be realising it, but you have had a far greater impact on my life than you might be thinking”, he told me one day. I pretended to laugh it away, but my spirit was somersaulting all over the place) SK got selected for her dream job in Mumbai – central government, tenured – and I couldn’t help gushing over the memory of her talking about wanting to work in preventive oncology as she introduced herself to us; the very first time I heard her speak, actually. SM managed to get a permanent post at his preferred institute in Chennai. K got the job I had set up for her and is having a blast at her new office. TR was personally called up and offered a permanent position in Bhubaneswar. S found love. L found love. K found love (I even teared up at her wedding). MB started smiling again.

And yes, somewhere in the middle of all of this, my heart started healing again.

For all the damage you wrecked, you also showed me kindness and courage and renewed kinship. For every misstep, you’ve given me a new beginning. New places, new experiences, new people. A new home. A new community. A new direction. A new connection. A new opportunity to learn what I’ve always wanted. A mentor in the one woman I admire the most in the world.

You made me get back to reading, and to reconnect with people I had lost over time.

You made me write my own stories, instead of indulging in someone else’s dream.

You taught me how to forge my own paths and walk unabashedly down them.

You gave me a newfound love for travel. For trekking. For strangers.

And for me.

And I’ll always be grateful for that.

Posted in Journal

Birth Of A Tiger Wife

I want to become a formidable woman.

The thought strikes me as Mr Beloved’s phone rings for the second time with the same unknown number flashing across the screen. He’s asleep in another room, heavily dosed with four different drugs thanks to a fever spike that set in prior to ward rounds today evening. Miraculously, he managed to get out of doing the rounds and sleep in the residents’ room before I went to get him. I’m guessing Christmas-New Year break must mean lesser patient load and admissions in general. I was able to go pick him up around 8, but as luck could have it, the heavens decided out of the blue that we had had enough of our dry winter spell and drenched me in due process while I was on my way, and he ended up taking a rickshaw after all.

Anyhow, after almost an hour of incoherent muttering about various aches and pains, he managed to finally sleep after having some dinner. And just as I sat down to get some work done, his damn phone rings. I hear that Portugal recently made it illegal for bosses to call you after working hours. Good for them. I don’t see this happening any time soon for India. Heck, I don’t see it EVER happening for doctors in India. For what really is a doctor but a ragdoll that’s expected to serve humanity every minute of the day? Who cares about our well-being or peace of mind anyway? It’s not as if healers are humans.

Okay, maybe I should stop digressing and put all that particular bitterness into another post.

The phone call, yes.

I picked up the phone the second time around and duly informed what seemed to be a young clueless postgraduate that my husband was sick and sleeping. He apologised and hung up. That’s when I thought long and hard about becoming a formidable woman.

I like the type in movies. I guess that’s one female character trope that I actually enjoy in a way. The woman who everyone is afraid of. No, not the scary monster kind. The kind who stands up to moneylenders when they turn up looking for their husbands, or make questionable remarks to the dean when her son fails a test, or unabashedly defends anyone related to her. The kind that all men, for once, seem to he afraid of crossing. Mrs Weasley comes to mind.

I wonder if there is a name for that kind of thing. I wanted to say tiger wife, but then a random website tells me that it’s not as original a term as I was hoping for and that it doesn’t necessarily mean what I want it to mean. (Google tells me there’s also something called a tiger woman, who’s something of a hypersexual woman single-mindedly pursuing men. I’m guessing cougar and nymphomaniac were not enough words to describe such mythical creatures borne of male imagination)

Well, I wish I could be that kind of a woman. MB is obviously not capable of making the right choices about work-life balance and maybe I should step in periodically to scare his colleagues away. That would be quite swell. Him being knocked out also gives me a great excuse to begin honing my skills right now I suppose.

Toxic workplaces, here I come.

Roar roar.

Posted in Musings

Secret Santa

I watched a host of videos by The School of Life around the time of my nervous breakdown this year. They were a major factor that helped to pull me out of my rut and get back to living. And now, every time I encounter a friend going through a difficult time in their relationships, I have a whole set of earmarked videos that I send their way.

There was one video in particular that dealt with the qualities it took to build and nourish a successful relationship, and instead of love, they largely focused on something else altogether – kindness. About how we need to treat our partners the way we would a child; we have to acknowledge their flaws and be gentle with them rather than showering indignation at their imperfections. This is one of the core messages that have stayed with me after going through all their content. It seems like a simple task, and yet difficult. And so powerful.

I believe it isn’t really restricted to the realm of marriages either. Over the years, I’ve had friends willing to stand with me through lean patches, listen to the ugly stories, see the worst parts of me and still choose to stay. I’ve had daunting secrets form whirlwinds of incessant thought in my head and wreck havoc through guilt and self-harm, cutting me with the sharp splinters of emotional debris swirling through my soul. And every time, I’ve had someone calm the winds with a non-judgmental word, lend me hope and reassurance that perhaps I’m not the first or the last to falter.

The first time it happened was when an adolescent girl’s muddled up ideas of rights and wrongs and misgivings regarding sexuality were spilled one night in a hesitant and drawn out confession, and someone chose to hold her hand in the dark dormitory and say that it was okay. Those three words changed her whole world.

And now, thirteen years later, when she accidentally let slip illicit details and morbid thoughts over an innocent phone call, someone else chose to spend long hours listening to her on Christmas eve and helped fix her broken smile.

And the Grinch in me finally had to admit – perhaps Santa doesn’t exist, but spectacular people certainly do, and as long as they are around, there shall always be showers of blessings and seasons of joy.

Dedicated to AU for bringing me Christmas cheer when I least expected it. I owe you one.

🙂

Posted in Musings

Procrastination

Calm.

As it settles comfortably around my chest, I feel a mix of relief and fear. This is all too familiar – taking a break and lying in bed, letting the mails crowd my inbox without breaking into my head. I know I’m going to regret this morning spent purely on printed words and dialogues speeding at 1.25x. I know I’d ask myself in another two days as deadlines overwhelm me why I spent an entire hour listening to the little yellow clock ticking away next to me as I contemplated how to fill the rest of my day. Why, I’d certainly be exasperated by even just the end of the day when I realise I’ve forgotten to send 2 out of 4 emails as promised to a colleague and watch the sky darken with her foul mood and indifferent texts.

I know myself all too well.

And maybe that’s why I let myself indulge in these stretches of time when the world feels still and liveable, when I’m not being submerged under relentless waves of thought, when I’m fortunate enough to simply smile and be.

Stop doing this! Another voice yells. You’re making it all too difficult.

You don’t get it, I whisper back. This is all I’ve got, these rare still moments of clarity. Let me be a lake for just a while longer, before the waves find me again. Let me listen to time stretching between the hands of a clock and fill the intervals with nothingness for once. Let me be free of chores and expectations, and spend my day staring aimlessly at a solo crack on the roof or a dangling cobweb, or shading the spaces between the letters of all words with myths of my own making.

Let’s worry about lost days another time. For now, let me close my eyes and breathe.

Posted in Journal

The Interlude Between Death and Laughter

I just woke up dreaming that I was writing a blog post. You know how it is – when there is something compelling that needs to be done and you’re so lazy that your brain makes up stories and fools you into thinking you’ve done it. I’ve been fooled a lot many times. Throughout school, I would dream that I was getting up, brushing my teeth and getting ready for school only to wake up with a jolt at my father’s loud exclamation and realise that I had only 15 minutes left to do all that before the school bus arrived.

“I dreamt that I was ready”, I would shout, half-apologetically, half-incredulously, as I made my way to the bathroom hastily avoiding my parents’ gaze and an odd hand frozen in the air mid-strike.

I was supposed to go on a trek today. Two months ago, I finally discovered that Vellore had a redeeming quality after all, through my new landlady. (It’s weird to call her my landlady because she’s absolutely the best and deserves a name, so let’s call her NG instead). NG got me added to her trekking community one week after I moved in, and my first trek was 3 weeks later, on Children’s Day. I decided that I might not mind settling down in Vellore after all.

So, as I was saying, I was supposed to be on my third trek today, and here I am, lying in bed with a cold. I was perfectly fine till yesterday evening. Well, maybe I did have a sore throat in the morning and ice cream in the afternoon, but how was I to know I would feel so dartardly so soon? In any case, I had to change my plans after looking forward to it for weeks and paying the fee way in advance.

When I told NG yesterday that I might not come, she asked me to send a message to the coordinator and let him know. And of course, I slept off and dreamt that I sent him a text. By the time I realised that the message didn’t get synced across realities, the team was on their way downhill.

And here I was again, dreaming about writing the blog post and I told myself, NO. I will not be fooled by my conscience two times in a row on the same day. I WILL write the post.

Now that the background has been established for no reason at all, let’s move on to the content.

It’s almost nothing, really. I spent a lot of time with MB yesterday after a very long time. The level of normalcy in our relationship felt almost alien, it was like we were back in Pondicherry and living at a much simpler pace and time. Christmas had awarded him with a break (our personal miracle), and we ate out for the first time after shifting to Vellore – after exactly a whole year, would you believe? The food was sub-par – one side effect of having lived in Pondicherry is that restaurants at other places always fail to impress – but it felt good to be together; to ride together my bike to a destination other than the hospital and talk about nothing important. After lunch we came home and finished watching a movie. We hugged, kissed, slept, and kissed some more. Not on the lips though. I wonder about this a lot. We kiss each other on the lips only when we have sex, and affection gets diverted otherwise to any other random accessible body part. Cheeks most often, maybe arms, shoulders, fingers. Forehead. Chin. The little mole just above his lips.

I think I love that mole just a little more than I love him.

I had bought him a book on my recent travel to Pune. I always bring back things to appease him after a long journey, like you’d a child. Usually sweets and snacks based on whatever is special in the places I visit, and also any books that catch my eye at airport stalls. I chanced on one that I knew he would love – a collection of short essays on stories/myths around various temples in India penned by famous historians. I also had a novel delivered by Amazon the day I returned. As we nestled against each other at night, reading our respective books, the day felt like a dream. How we take normalcy for granted!

The Illicit Happiness Of Other People, written by Manu Joseph was an impulse buy based purely on the title. The style was exactly what you’d expect from the title, satirical, absurdist and even blatantly introspective. As if the writer had to vent a lot of stray thoughts into the universe and decided to create a host of people to do it for him. I kept quoting it to MB from time to time, eliciting chuckles from him.

One paragraph halfway through the first chapter made me stop and think for a while. I read it out to MB.

“But still if I die, imagine I die, you would be sad, I know. Of course, you will be sad. But not as deeply as people would presume. In this world, it is very hard to escape happiness. That’s how it is”

And then I recounted the incident to him.

It’s funny how some things get stuck in your head for no reason. This was one of those memories. There was this girl I knew from school. Mariam. She was a year older than me and we travelled on the same school bus. When she was in the 10th grade and I was in 9th, her father died of some ailment. I wasn’t aware that he was sick, but I presume he had been for some time. For a week, the bus went past her usual spot without stopping for her, and I imagined her at home, hugging her mother and weeping like they show us in movies. Losing a parent is right up there in the list of childhood tragedies. The next week, I saw her in the corridor during break, walking with her best friend, laughing. I remember being incredulous. Are you allowed to laugh so soon after losing a parent? Maybe she was happy that he died. Maybe she was tired of crying. Maybe she didn’t care enough. Maybe she was faking the laughter. But then, what was the right time to laugh after losing someone? How long might I cry after losing a parent? Perhaps there was some socially sanctioned equation involving different variables. My 15 year old brain was new to calculus and quickly gave up.

In the dream, I went on to write something more about colour-coded rooms and complex relationships, but I’ve been awake for too long now to recollect any of that. So this is all. I think I’ll pop another pill and sleep again now, and see if any other posts come up.

Posted in Journal

Double Life

I feel like I’m living a double life. My Whatsapp status updates overflow with laughter and the joy of new experiences. The constant travel gives me ample of experiences and the newfound extrovert streak allows me to gel quite well with strangers these days. I’m just back from a fun night out with a bunch of friends new and old, and the whole night was oohing and aahing over delicious Maharashtrian snacks while engaged in constant banter. I step out of the car, still giddy from the excitement of experiencing a new city, wave goodbyes to everyone and step into my hotel room.

The curtain drops.

I try to process the bland emotions that are settling around my chest and climb under the sheets, searching for warmth.