Posted in Musings

Doll

The pointlessness of it all.

However hard I try, however many distractions, I throw at myself, it comes back to this. And the urge to self-destruct reaches an all-time high when you find yourself let out a sigh, bidding goodbye to a dream that can never be.

How do you cope with the knowledge that whatever you do, whichever paths you choose, you’d always fall short of what you wanted? That all the permutations and combinations that life throws at you could never add up to the perfect life you have built in your head?

In my head, yes, I know it’s all in my head. There is no such thing as perfect life. There’s no such thing as flawless relationships. I know. What I have is something most people can only care to dream about, and opportunities come knocking when I least expect them, and I’ve come farther than I ever thought I would.

Trust me, I know.

I’m lucky, I’m beautiful, I’m magnificent.

I know.

I know.

But what if everything’s perfect, but for a little missing piece, just one tiny missing puzzle piece. What if it felt like that piece holds more value than all the rest of it put together. As if it’s the spoke that keeps me ticking and now I’m falling to pieces without something to hold me together. What if you had to go through life knowing that your picture would always be incomplete, that you’d always be falling apart at the blink of an eye, forever be trying to pick yourself up. That you’d always be an empty propped up doll for the world to see.

I’m just so exhausted, fighting this, trying to find my way back. For there is no way back. Just a hopeless countdown to the end of my days, and I feel like I’m done already.

It’s just too hard.

Posted in Verses

How Things Are

I suppose that’s how things are.

They fall apart,

And scatter at your feet,

You trample them

In the rush of time

And as you gather them

On a lonely winter night

Fall away again,

Through the nooks and corners

Of your arms and your heart.

I suppose that’s how things are.

They change as you stay still

But then again,

Sometimes you change

And they remain the same.

You catch glimpses of an old shiny leaf

That leaves a book,

A long-forgotten dream,

Pressed against the many memories

A little worse for wear

But special all the same.

I suppose that’s just how things are.

They’re here, you’re gone,

You’re here, they’re gone,

And you keep playing this game

Of endless hide-and-seek

Running in circles till y’all are a whirlwind

Of was and were.

I suppose, I suppose,

It’s alright,

Cuz I suppose,

That’s just the way how things are.

Posted in Journal

Tints of Darkness

I feel the darkness creeping in, getting closer. I see the corners of my rainbow show a tint of black, spreading slowly like mould. I open my eyes wide and try to breathe away the ghosts looming in my head, whispering phrases from another time. I need to stay calm. I need to find a way to get through this.

I’ve identified a trigger and am taking definitive steps at getting it out of my system. Another month.. and that’s it. But what if these feelings linger beyond the deadlines and I end up carrying their weight like a tombstone of memories I hold within my heart, up until the day I die? I feel like the mid-life crisis is simply a reaction to your children growing up and leaving you, the end of a long project that leaves you feeling empty, and maybe my quarter life crisis would also be arising from a similar sense of bewilderment, at not having a pet project to give my life meaning. But the very thought turns in my head and I cringe at the idea of having children simply for want of something else to do, for want of something better going on. And it’s insane, because I DO have a lot going on, I have too much going on, and maybe that too is a problem – that I’m so drowned in commitments and deadlines and half-dead ideas that I find them around my head like dead logs in water. I try to hold on to them to keep me afloat, but all I end up doing is bringing them down with me or losing them to the current and nearly choking to death in the process.

I thought I was through with it, this phase of having enough of it all. I thought I was happy again, and forever this time. But forever only exists at the end of fairytales, and perhaps the way all fairytales end with forever should have served as a premonition that forevers too do end. I hate waiting for messages that never arrive; seeking an illusion that seems to have broken into irreparable pieces in the bat of an eye. Death whispers sweet nothings when no one is looking, and I pretend I’m not listening, but on a drunken night with all inhibitions down, I found myself screaming his intent to a startled crowd.

I should be more careful. I need to tread lightly. I need to spray myself with sunrays so bright they melt these fantasies away; I need a thousand red candles to seal my scars shut; I need silver sparkles to protect my cloak.

Perhaps you could send some my way?

Posted in Journal

The Best Sunrise

I suppose Dil Chaahta Hai (The Heart Desires) will always remain the quintessential Indian film on friendship, at least for us millenials who grew up with its music ringing in our ears. Every time I get together with friends, the title song makes a quiet run at the back of my mind –

Dil chaahta hai, hum na rahein kabhi yaaron ke bin

“The heart desires that we should never be without friends

S asked me once which my favourite sunrise was till date. I remember trying to imagine a picturesque scene by a beach or on a mountain top, watching the sun come up on the horizon, and failing to come up with an answer. I’ve never been a morning person, and could hardly recollect a pristine sunrise caught in the film of my mind.

If he asked me again today, I’d finally have an answer. The dawn of September 19th, 2021. I wasn’t at a beach, or atop a mountain. I sat with my feet dangling from a poolside, feeling the cool water rippling around my ankle. SE sat next to me, and SM diagonally across. We could hear birdsong in the background, as the sky lightened subtly. It had been a wild night – lying under the stars with our tongues let loose by too much alcohol and rambling on for hours about work, relationships, happiness, the present, the future and everything in between. I couldn’t remember the last time I had spent a whole night awake. As dawn broke and a rooster crowed, I revelled at how still the world was around me, how calm the world was within me. I belonged here. I was present there with all my heart, enveloped by quiet ripples of happiness.

This was where I wanted to be, always. On a terrace, by a pool, at the beach, on a mountain top, in a car… the place doesn’t matter, as long as my people are around me, every time I pass through darkness into the light.

Posted in Anecdotes

Coffee At Home

MB visited our new house for the first time yesterday after I moved in last week. By our new house, I mean the place we have rented recently. And by moved in, I mean shifted all our things into. I continue to spend the nights with him at his hostel as his shifts continue to be erratic and it’s near-impossible to drive down to the new place even though it’s less than twenty minutes away. But it’s closer to my workplace, so I can come home for lunch and hang out here till late in the evening, and probably even make dinner before heading to the hostel for the night.

There were no urgent calls from the Intensive Care Unit, so I suggested we go for a small ride, and maybe have coffee at the new house. I expected him to say no as usual, but he agreed. We grabbed coffee and bonda from a restaurant on the way, and I put two chairs out onto our terrace-balcony. It’s my favourite part in the whole house. There was a cool breeze, and we watched trees swaying around us. I pointed out a squirrel to him on a coconut tree across the road; its tail kept twitching in rhythm with every shrill squeak. We sat in silence, sipping the coffee.

He searched for an old book in the shelf I had decked with our collection; the other place had hardly any space and all the books had still been in the boxes that came from Pondicherry an year ago, till I finally let them out now. He picked one and went back to the terrace, reading. I bent down to put my chin against the top of his head, my arms loosely across the chest. I pressed my cheek to his and smiled as he absentmindedly kneaded my arm as he read. The world seemed to shrink within the terrace parapet – all that existed were the breeze, the quiet, the neem leaves, the squirrels, and us.

Ten, perhaps fifteen minutes, and it was time to leave for his evening ward rounds. A quick kiss on his cheek and I got up to clear the cups and lock up.

I suppose perfect evenings look a little different out here. Sometimes all it takes to create one is two cups of coffee and a home.

♥️

Posted in Verses

Someone I Knew Died The Day Before

Someone I knew died the day before.

Someone I knew
Briefly, for a day,
Died,
Quietly, of age, at peace,
The day before.
Someone I knew died the day before,
While I drank and laughed and sang.
He took in his last breath
While I held mine underwater
And learnt to swim for the first time.
Someone I knew for but a day,
An year ago from today,
Died in his sleep while I lay awake
On a terrace, counting stars,
Till a rooster crowed.
An year ago from today,
He talked to me of a foreign land,
Of exotic fruits,
Of half-forgotten phrases;
Of borders and tongues that yielded to his heart,
And a war that heralded his return.
Someone I knew, and forgot about,
Died the day before;
A quiet blip in my universe.
He died, and so I remembered,
A foreign land, a phrase, a war;
Someone I knew died the day before,
And, in death,
Reminded me of life.
Posted in Anecdotes

Playing Dead a.k.a Am I Really Right In The Head..?

I play dead. I wonder if it’s something people do in general, or just a habit of mine.

What I mean to say is, I pretend to sleep or be unconscious when I feel like it. Or rather, when I don’t feel like it – when I don’t feel like getting up, or talking to people, or facing certain situations. I close my eyes and will the world to leave me alone.

When I think about it, I guess it mostly happens when there is an impending social interaction that I’m too tired/lazy to be a part of. Sometimes at home, sometimes while visiting other people. And it’s rarely ever premeditated. I might be resting on the bed when I hear someone coming in to call me and then pause. They’d call my name softly, but I wouldn’t budge. I’d make my eyes stay where they are, make my breathing even, and sometimes turn over to a more comfortable posture as if I’m simply tossing in my dreams. I’d listen intently to the hushed voice of my mother telling the relative that I seem to be asleep, and then the door closing softly behind them. I don’t break the act. I lie there awake, with my eyes closed, for as long as I feel like – usually till after the visitors bid boisterous goodbyes and their car drives away.

Some people are persistant. They suspect you’re fooling them, and keep trying to wake you up. I’d pretend not to hear my name till 4 or 5 times. I’d subtly bite the inside of my cheeks to prevent myself from smiling. The right approach in such cases is to half-open one’s eyes and shoot a grumpy look along with a groggy “whaaaat”, or “leave me alone” or, the winner “string-of-illegible-syllables-delivered-with-a-side-of-groans” and finish oft by turning to the other side and non-chalantly shutting those beauties again. Utmost care has to be taken that any utterance comes out in a slur with deep baritones.

Bonus tip: the groggy-groan phrases work well when you’re dealing with phone calls from people too.

So that’s sleep. Pretending to be unconscious is a whole different ball game altogether. The following stunts are performed by a manic professional; please do not try them at home.

I have done it twice. I think I was around 10 years both times, or perhaps just a tad younger. The first time I was at the town hall at the vaccination camp to get my tetanus shot. They gave every child a candy before getting the shot. The smell of hospitals and spirit always made me queasy (funny how that worked out career-wise) and I’ve always hated needles. I get the shot, feel nauseated and kind of melt into a lump on the floor. I’m alright in approximately two seconds, but by then my uncle has picked me up and put me over his shoulder, heading to the doctor in charge. I lie quietly with my body perfectly limp, and as I relax my hands to make them seem more realistically ‘limper’, the candy slips out of my fist. I hear the distinct sound of the wrapper hitting the busy floor, but now I’m in too deep to break character. I get placed on a table, a doctor checks my vitals, and decides I seem to be alright. Till date, I feel for two things – not knowing whether the doctor bought my little act, and the fact that I lost a perfectly good candy and had to look on as my cousin sucked on his.

The second time was in class. Math teachers pulled this clever trick where they would write a sum on the board for us to do, and the first few to finish them get a tick mark on their notebooks with THE RED PEN. It was such an honour, and it was often quite an aggressive competition. So a random day, she gives us sums, I hastily complete mine and rush over to her desk to get the tick mark. In my excitement, I fail to notice a bag that lies across the path, trips and falls flat on my face.

Now, this is happening bang in the middle of the class. In that split second I’m so embarrassed that I do not feel like getting up and looking at everyone laughing at me. So what do I do? Not get up. I lie on the floor on my face and do not budge. Kids crowd around me, and the teacher runs to pick me up and prop me against the desk. Still nothing. Then I feel the cold sprinkle of some water on my face, and decide it’s time for act 2. I blink, look around, and then blink some more at the worried faces around me. A few more minutes of making sure I don’t have a concussion, and then the show’s over, and the crowd disperses. I avoid eye contact with anyone, and start doing my sums again.

Oh what’s that you say? I’m a drama queen?? I wish I could respond but I’m kind of fast asleep right now, so.

Oh well. Snore, snore.

Posted in Anecdotes

An Epitaph, Overdue

My uncle didn’t deserve to die.

It’s close to 2 AM and I’m finally getting down to penning an urgent document. I open the Word file, and all the collected references, and begin.

“Patients with cirrhosis are at a high risk of developing bacterial infections. They present recurrently to the hospital with life-threatening conditions.”

I come to a halt. My fingers hover over the keyboard, unsure. I don’t need all these articles to tell me this. I know. Now I know.


I’ve heard that my grandmother was considered barren for a great many years before my uncle was born. Ten years, to be exact. They visited famous temples and prayed to umpteen gods before she finally wore him in her womb. I’ve heard how he was a charming boy in their village – fair, handsome, well-mannered, quiet-spoken. Everyone thought he was worth the wait.

My grandmother was thought to have turned barren again after his birth. My mother arrived twelve years later to prove them wrong.

My grandfather was rapidly ageing by then. He wasn’t ready to be father again; so my uncle took his place. He pampered his little sister, gave in to her every wish and never let her want for anything. One day, when their parents were away, the back of her little frock stained with blood for the first time. He ran down to the town and came back with a cover of sanitary pads and a long piece of cloth. When she came in wearing the the newly stitched big-girl skirt, he picked her up by the waist, stood her on the dining table and kissed her forehead.

And when the little sister had a little girl of her own, he treated her like a princess. He held the tiny baby in his chubby arms in their frontyard and showed her off to the early morning sun. He bought her a doll that slept with its eyes closed as it lay near her, and accompanied her in her dreams. She would blush and squirm as he recounted her talents, her marks, her brilliance to everyone who listened. He travelled miles with a birthday cake every year, even after she grew too old to be blowing candles, because the shop at his town baked the best ones. And when she stained her dress for the first time, he brought enough sweets to feed a village, and an exorbitant silk skirt embroidered with fine golden thread.

If there is one thing that I would never forgive my father for, it’s introducing my uncle to alcohol. He was too naive, too soft. He was the fair, handsome, well-mannered school boy; he wasn’t a callused ruffian to survive its onslaught.

I remember the days they would slip quietly into my room as the rest of us played in the hall; how they would pretend that we couldn’t know of the quiet clinking glasses. I remember laughing at the way they behaved when caught. I remember feeling clever that I knew exactly where the bottle of brandy was hidden in my cupboard. I don’t remember ever thinking of asking him to stop. Maybe he would have, if I had asked. Only, I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t know what happened to well-mannered boys when they started playing with ruffians. I didn’t know he could get hurt.

By the time I reached my first year of medical school, he had started developing symptoms. I progressed through my classes, and unknown to me, he deteriorated into a wretched being. He joked over the phone about how he would present as a patient for my final year, that he could be my exam case. I think I laughed. I didn’t know. I think Mother mentioned hospitals and lab reports from time to time. I think she mentioned that the that they were selling off property to pay for the medicines. That his elder son, my cousin, left his education half way to take care of him. I was in college, surrounded by friends. I didn’t really pay attention. I didn’t know. I think I didn’t know.

My last memory of him is a large man swaying at the bottom of the stairs, smiling on a high, and talking to me in slurred tones. I was just about to enter my final year, and home for a few days, meeting him after a very long time. He laughed and told me I could practise on him for my final exams. His fair flawless face was now a dark mess of ailment, sagging prematurely – porphyria and lipodystrophy . His abdomen was distended – ascites. His legs were like two large pillars and the way the skin looked… – long standing pedal edema. Some part of my brain kept ticking off everything I had learnt in my textbooks, even as I looked on in horror, unable to find my uncle in the person in front me.

He didn’t make it to my final exams. I got the call early one morning, and I remember feeling nothing. Not on my 8 hour cab ride home for the funeral. Not when I watched my red-eyed cousins follow someone’s instructions regarding the rituals while holding back tears. Not when I watched my grandmother break down at the feet of her first-born. Not when my mother hugged me and wept like the world ended.

I remember telling myself how this was better. The mounting debts, his son’s broken education, my aunt’s incessant tears – it was better that he died than lived on as a ghost of his previous self.


Seven years later, I stare at the screen of a random assignment and sob uncontrollably into the night.

Posted in Musings

Raindrops On A Leafy Afternoon

You know how everyone is a type of day deep, deep, down? Some drip sunshine so bright that you wear sunglasses to take in all their beauty. Some are dewy mornings that invoke a quiet wonder in everything around you. Some are dark nights riddled with thunder claps and lightening strikes. Some are quiet evenings that calm you down. Some are light drizzles on a warm summer day that send a rainbow your way. Some are freezing winters pushing you to seek comfort in warmth elsewhere. Some are spring mornings weaving butterflies in your hair. Have you ever thought about what kind of day you might be?

I think I’ve always been a rainy afternoon.

Waking up to rain at dawn makes you cozy and reminiscent; you reach for the blanket and contemplate wistfully about staying in all day. Rains in the evening have you reaching for a cup of warm coffee and watching the droplets fall idly from your roof. Rain at night has you huddling around to share stories and perhaps read a love story by candlelight.

Afternoon rains are a different. They are the kind that makes you think about the umbrella you forgot at home, and has you crowding impatiently at the doorway, waiting for a respite that doesn’t come. The kind where a chilly air blows through your hair, and cold water drips down your neck from a leak on the roof as you join a bus full of strangers smelling of damp clothes. The kind where the walk home is bound to be full of a million brown puddles and muddy footprints on the staircase. The kind that makes you, a pluviophile, want nothing more than a fresh pair of clothes and the safe indoors. The kind that reeks of heartbreaks, loneliness and melancholic violin notes.

I’ve always been an afternoon rain, and yet something is different.

I’m so used to the cold, that I surprise myself every time I smile widely at an empty room. I feel an ounce of light leaking from the tip of my lower lip, and then another from a fragment of my iris. My tongue rolls in my mouth, unsure about why it’d want to aid in the escape of a laugh that’s brimming on the sides of my cheeks. A sparkle leaves my eye and lodges itself in the corner of a mirror. I lean back and sigh at the raindrops that fall in a cool cascade around my heart.

One word resonates – ambient happiness. Like the enticing charm of a new love, like a clandestine rendezvous on a forest path.

Did you know time ceases to exist or matter in the depths of a rainforest? When hit by a cloudburst, it catches each harsh splash in its foliage and eases it down; letting the drops fall like dainty flowers at its feet. That’s where afternoon rains belong – down in the misty darkness of its entangled roots.

The doorbell rings, and he steps in after a long day. My dear, darling rainforest. I burst forth, falling into his strong green limbs and he lets me cool his weary sunburnt skin, as a quiet trickle of bliss seeps into the earth beneath our feet.