I gazed at the picture for a long time after I clicked it today, mesmerised by the translucent beauty of the white daisies and hunting for the right adjective to pinpoint what I felt they were, and finally found it in the thesaurus.
My bed draws me in. So does the sofa. And the futon. And the floor. And regardless of the nature of the seating contraption/arrangement, I invariably tend to lean backwards, and keep doing so till I am parallel to the floor.
Mr Beloved calls me lazy. As always, I beg to differ.
The erect posture of humans, as I see it, is an evolutionary blunder and I’m just going back to my roots.
I rest my case.
(You’re all welcome)
Frail little things –
The crystal vase
The wild dream
Your own beating heart;
Your fingers close
Upon them all, a trembling grasp
Why not let go
Why not let soar
Why not let scatter and shatter if need be
When all world holds
And ever unfolds
Of so, so much more..
Two years ago, when I first started this blog, I wrote a piece that I still believe to be one of my finest. It was about our dog, Brownie, Browns for short. He was sick at the time, on the verge of dying, but came back miraculously due to Mother’s care. Last week, he finally passed after 13 long years – eons in our reckoning, for we cannot remember a time without him. As I watched him being laid to rest in a small hole dug up in our backyard, I couldn’t help but wonder.. How is it that it is the tiny ones that take up the most space in our hearts?
I am re-posting the same now in his memory.
We were a regular middle class family; nuclear and dysfunctional.
I was a teenager struggling to find out the whereabouts of my mind and comprehend the ambiguity of my thoughts, and the more than occasional feuds at home did nothing to help. But, in a way, they also broke the monotony. It never failed to amaze me how three people can share a house and still live in their own private shells, completely cut off and oblivious to one another. Parallel universes that intercepted at dinner and continued on their way after. Mother was perpetually busy in the kitchen, cooking her way through bliss and bitterness alike. Father left for work in the morning and returned at night, and spent the rest of the time watching TV, listening to different versions of the same news stories on various channels.
As my parents found their own individual ways to overcome the midlife crisis, I hid in between pages. Books became bricks of my own little fortress, guarded by dragons and imaginary allies. Every time an argument ensued, I’d run in and close the gates, drowning the cacophony in the chatter of fairies or the drumbeats of adventure.
Till he arrived.
The year was 2006. I was returning home after an extra class at school. As I walked towards the house from the bus stop, I could see Mother standing across the fence looking down at her feet, smiling and talking as if to herself. I assumed one of my little cousins had stopped by. As I came around to the front, I noticed it was not a child but a little brown ball of fur, complete with drooping ears and eyes that melted your heart in a wink. We now had a puppy!!
He was originally bought by a relative who happened to change his mind, and so it came to be that my family owned a pet for the very first time. And how! We adored him with all the pent up love that had been lying around in our hearts unused for years. His every movement was celebrated and every mischief recounted with vigor. Ooohs and aaahs drowned the news reports and his little paws tore away my fortress. We’d sit in the living room watching his antics, laughing at how he slipped on the tiles and chased his own shadow. Every day when I came back from school he’d be waiting at the gate with my mom, and his tiny form would squeeze right through the grills to welcome me, the tiny tail wagging so fast I feared it’d fall off. The same ritual happened when Father got home, and he would not let him enter without playing a bit of fetch and chase. Mother would bombard us (and anyone who happened to visit) with his tales and eccentricities; anything that he happened to do was a reason to smile.
It has been 10 years, and the tales have not grown stale. With the puppy grew our love for him. As I write this I can hear my parents in the next room, worrying about his health, how he has not been eating well for some days now. His energy is waning, he seems to sleep a lot more. It is difficult for us to accept that he is growing old. That he may not be around a couple of years from now. Because to us, he is not just a pet, but a little brown ball of joy that turned three strangers into a family again.
Perhaps all it really takes to erase the fences in our minds, to suppress the xenophobia that rots us from within and without, to stop being a catalyst in the mass hysteria of communal policing and ridicule is to remember that we are all minorities in some part of the world, in one way or the other.
I fill my days with colors
The aroma of memories
Lived and unborn;
The dusty palette of fading acrylic
And the sepia tones of yesteryear songs
Cravings of chocolate, solitude
And fluttering heartbeats
Highs of crowded laughter,
And all and anything else
As always, another self-centered rant.
Do I like change?? As an escapist, I welcome it. As an emotional wreck, I despise it. The revelation of the multitudes of meaning the single word has for me makes my sanity come undone; bares open the wounds that years of internal conflicts have wrought upon my mind – those never ending battles between thoughts of my own; I am the saviour and the enemy, I am the fleets of marching infantry and the crowds cowering at their feet.
I prefer to run away when all world seems to be collapsing around me – nightmarish reality or just a nightmare? – and I embrace the wild winds tussling my hair, heading to a new horizon, a new cliff, a new ANYWHERE.. just so I wouldn’t have to stand by and be engulfed by the earth I stand on.
And yet, I shed tears when it’s time to say goodbye, when the grounds and walls do not shake for me, but for someone else – and parting becomes not about wild winds but a tornado shaking my core and tearing me apart.
They say change is inevitable, parting is too, but never how the moments leading up till then seem to sum up to a contorted melee of emotions, memories and vagrant thoughts, sweet moments that one never ever thinks of treasuring past the prosaic milieu of scattered laughs and photographs that dissipate like the occasional cool breeze of a summer siesta.
You wake up to the harsh still air and wonder if it was all a dream.
I bought my copy of The Help by Kathryn Stockett at a large book fest last year. The stall offered any 3 books for Rs. 200 which was cheap by any standards. While scrambling for good ones from piles of mostly trash, I found this one. The cover page looked interesting and the title seemed oddly familiar. It was three days ago that I noticed the untouched book tucked into the shelf and decided to give it a go.
It was a revelation.
For one, the setting – the 1960s; only 3 decades before I was born. Whenever I watch a Hollywood movie that features ‘coloured help’, be it Django Unchained or The Notebook, I’d somehow always imagine the story unfolding in the far distant past, the 1800s perhaps. Even when I was nearly halfway through the book I was under the impression it was happening some time yonder. That such racist laws existed so close to the present was definitely a little unnerving.
But a greater shock, one I never ever anticipated, was how much I could relate to this story from another continent. The only dissimilarity would be the fact that, in our case, we were all coloured.
Growing up in a quasi-aristocratic family in rural Kerala, we had our share of servants and labourers working for us both at home and on the fields, some of them migrants from the neighbouring state. We were all shades of brown, but they were different – I know they were never abused, but there was definitely a divide, a line of separation that I painfully realize still exists. But I suppose I was never fully aware of it till now. When I read the conversation about coloured bathrooms in the first chapter, I was warily aware of some recent memories that had started playing in my mind…
“Unbelievable!”, exclaimed a relative, pointing out the flaws in her brother’s new house, “An awful lot of money they spent on this place, with all these useless rooms inside, and they didn’t even have the common sense to build a servant bathroom…!”
“Do you know what their new maid does? After cooking, she takes her share and eats it before the family does… technically that means they are eating her leftovers. If it were me, I’d fire her right away! Such audacity!!”
I didn’t think much about these comments then, although I remember finding the first one somewhat logical and the second mildly disconcerting, but now I am left wondering more than ever.
My family per se, constituting Father, Mother and I, was not exactly rich, thanks to my father’s prodigal ways, but all our relatives were. So while they had multiple cooks and maids at home, Mother just had one, and only after I was born. This was the early 90s and most of the mechanized household equipment had not made its way to our rural hamlet. Laundry is anything but a piece of cake with a perpetually pooping creature at home (diapers were unheard of). So, it came to be that Mrs AA was welcomed with open arms into our home. She figures in all my childhood memories and was an integral part until she moved in with her daughter in another town when I was in high school.
I don’t think we ever explicitly discriminated against her, and indeed Father and Mother aided her a lot financially and emotionally, helping her deal with her daughter’s education and her son’s drug abuse, but there was an invisible line drawn somewhere. I believe she was even more aware of this than we were. I vividly remember how she absolutely refused to sit on chairs… not even the plastic chairs that the servants usually used (wooden furniture was always reserved for family alone), and sat on the floor of the hall while we sat at the table. It was quite a normal phenomenon to pass on old clothes to her and her kin; and these were of course gratefully accepted. The class divide was such. And the bathroom. Our house did not have even a guest bathroom, just the two attached to the two bedrooms. I asked Mother yesterday which one Mrs AA used during her time with us.
“Well..”, Mother paused thinking, visibly bewildered by this question out of the blue, “she was only here during the daytime..”
It was obvious this was something she had never really given a thought to.
“Yes, but what if she needed to use the bathroom in the daytime?”, I persisted.
“I suppose she must have done it in the backyard somewhere”
At a time when even women’s rights were a novel entity, it is not surprising that no one might have given a thought about the needs of a maid.
But when I look at this phenomenon after blurring out the distinctions in class, colour and race, I realize out it all boils down to is convenience and egoistic altercations. If I were to raise the issue with anyone, it’d be less of a debate and more of a discussion culminating in but-this-is-how-it-has-always-been and is-it-not-better-this-way… and maybe even a glimpse of the other spectrum of thought where rigid pseudo-realists call for the line of division to cater to a vague sense of discipline. And this extends across all fields, this phobia of chaos, this rapacious need to submit to order; be it a new army recruit, a new intern at work or a college freshman, the first thing you do is teach them their place. Somewhere in the maze, the components of respect and inherent integrity are forgotten and servility takes an upper hand.
It would seem that the apparently invisible line is quite vivid still.
What if the afterlife is an actual place where every act of kindness or cruelty you ever committed is handed back to you?
Would you call it heaven or hell?
Flowing with the current,
Hitting against the banks
The low lying branches
And move on
Bruised and bleeding…
Will I too wash along the shore one day?
Amongst the filth
Of inadequacy, ineptitude
A lifetime of ignorant delinquency
Marked by sloth
Or emerge miraculously
At the horizon
Riding the rays
Of the setting sun
As I glimmer alongside…
I know not.
Maybe one day I
Will not be
A dead weight for this stream
I can’t help