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.

Posted in Musings

The Creation-Consumption Conundrum

You’d think that all kinds of art would make you feel the same way. But it doesn’t. Music. Literature. Films. And of course, writing. Each of these gives me an entirely different experience, sets whole different moods.

Writing, for one, being something that requires very active involvement, is set quite apart from the rest. It brings me joy when it flows on its own, and makes me frustrated when I feel like I’m pushing it, or when I’m not entirely happy with what I’ve written. To be frank, I feel the latter right now; noting down my feelings without an end in mind. I feel more like a commentator than a writer.

Books are probably what gives me the most guaranteed happiness. For one, it requires little effort from my part. For another, it’s books. ‘Nuf said.

I’ve a love-hate relationship with music as I’ve mentioned before. I hate how much power it can have over my psyche, and how it can manipulate me so expertly and play mind games. Prior to discovering Spotify, I wasn’t even one to listen to music, and suddenly enters this software whose algorithm figures me out better than I ever managed to in 30 years. Sly b*&@#%d.

Films. Videos. Netflix. Why does watching something on our phone always feel like we are doing something bad? It’s the opposite of reading a book. Always a sinful activity. There ARE some random shows and channels that energize me, but most of it wears me out and/or makes me feel like a horrible person wasting away one’s life.

A couple of years ago, (or was it last year?! This pandemic has made me lose all sense of time) I started following a YouTube channel called Pick Up Limes. I loved the sheer positivity oozing out of the host, and the stunning frames and beautiful food preparations were a bonus. One of her earlier videos that I watched at the time talked of the necessity of maintaining the ratio between creation and consumption. How taking the effort to create something energizes you, while passively consuming someone else’s work ironically ends up making you feel drained.

I suppose my ratio has never quite been a healthy balance; it always tips on either side. And whenever it tips on the favourable side, you can be sure that I’m either emotionally vulnerable, or trying to escape a task. Like right now. I have deadlines piling up, and I choose to make a hideout out of WordPress.

It’s an hour away from midnight, and it’s too late to start afresh on work. Maybe tomorrow I’ll finally learn to strike a balance.

After all, isn’t that what tomorrows are for? Hope??

Posted in Musings

Going With The Flow

I tell myself that I’m too busy, that my work is too hectic, and everything is moving much too fast. That this is not what I wanted, not what I signed up for. My choice to do post graduation in preventive medicine was fuelled by the idea of having evenings and weekends to myself than by an aptitude towards fieldwork or academia. It was during our compulsory residential internship that I came to this conclusion. My rotations started with three harrowing months in the department of Medicine, followed by just slightly better ones in Surgery and OB-GYN. After nine months of running around wards getting shouted at by superiors, my final posting was in community health. This entailed one or two-week postings in rural/urban health centres where I assisted in outpatient management. The work was largely redundant – repeating the half-a-dozen available tablets in various combinations for people coming in with complaints of myalgia and acute respiratory infections, or sanctioning repeat prescriptions for diabetes and hypertension – but it allowed me to have evenings and Sundays to myself, to watch movies, and to read. Oh, to read. I vowed to myself that all I wanted was a degree in something that would let me read for pleasure.

Fast forward to 2021, and I’m drowning in responsibilities. Joining a reputed research institution, among the best in the country and the world, comes with perks of global networking, exposure to titans in the field, and the opportunity to perhaps become one of them some day. On the down side, a lot of things are expected of me, and the journey from expectations to fruition takes time and effort, both of which I’m reluctant to part with.

I’m lazy. Never been a hard worker. There you have it.

That being said, I’ve definitely crossed some bridges that I never wanted to reach in the first place. I remember being appalled at the idea of a colleague working during her vacation when I first joined, and that is precisely what I did last last week; making field visits and micro managing a project from home on almost every day of my 7-day annual leave. I frankly do not identify this person anymore.

Change is a strange thing. It creeps in when you’re not looking and catches you unawares. Whether it is that crinkle by your lips, or the flab around your hips. You try a favourite blouse one day and realise that it’s a tad too tight around the arms. You decide to pull an all-nighter and lose the struggle to stay up past midnight. You come across an old photograph from college and realise the girl in it looks so much younger than you do, although you could swear, you could swear, that the person in the mirror never ever changed. You tell yourself you’re lazy and laid-back, always has been, always will be, and grapple with the identity of this other person who seems intent and concerned about achieving so much more. Someone talks to you about how they would rather join a mediocre teaching job with less hours and a fat pay, and you are surprising to find the tint of distaste that’s rising in you. You realise, on some level, that even as you were coming into terms with everything that you are, just as you got all the traits pinned down and in array for inspection, you don’t recognise yourself.

I have not been giving my opportunities the respect they deserve. Talking to MN yesterday, I couldn’t help gushing over how amazing it is to be doing what I’m doing right now. It was a stroke of luck to be placed here, and I should be doing a better job. I need to be cutting down on the self-imposed distractions and focusing on what would make me feel fulfilled in the long run.

I’m not too busy, work is not too hectic to handle, and nothing is happening too fast. The days and nights are blurring, simply because I make them, because I’m trying to remain the stubborn twentysomething who has some quirky views on how her life should unfold. Clarity comes when you raise your head and take a hard long look at everything that surrounds you, at all the dreams that lie scattered, and the way they frame your face in the most brilliant ways if you’d just let it. If you’d just pay attention and savour each moment.

Sometimes it’s not about going against the flow, but riding the tides with the gentle awareness of every droplet that carries you onward. Across the hazy spray of incessant tasks, I can see the dewy magnificence of a future awaited. Sometimes it’s about allowing the good things in, and being their aide.

I clutch the oars and roll as one with the waves.

Posted in Musings

Ramblings Of An Insignificant Blogger

Life becomes a lot difficult when you’re a cynic or a sceptic. You take it upon yourself to call out the absurdity in most actions and look down on most things that, at some level, you struggle to find meaning in anything that you do. All of life seems to boil down into a vast expanse of pointlessness.

Looking back, I’m not entirely sure why I began blogging. I had created an account on Blogger some years prior and never really wrote anything on it. It was when R shared her own blog posts that I got my first exposure of WordPress. I created an account for myself the same day, and something clicked. My exams were due in a month, and writing suddenly became an alluring and justified distraction. Who would want to throttle creativity when it flows! I remember putting out posts to the tune of 3 a day, including photographs and book snippets. This dramatically ended once my exam was done and the well of creative juices hit a dry spell.

Although I tried to be fairly consistent, my writing has largely been linked to emotional lows, relationship woes and a general recurring discomfiture that is a hallmark of my life. I put out my best work when I’m at my worst; a bittersweet tragedy that has me in a conundrum as to what I should wish for – smooth sailing and sunshine that keeps me away from writing, or a wretched existence coupled with literary bliss? If only the choice were simpler.

Even though it is an anonymous blog, and I didn’t even have an idea why I was blogging in the first place, I am constantly obsessed concerned about the quality of posts I am putting out. This is supposed to be a safe space, a place where I can pen my thoughts without any regard for who might be reading, or what they might think of me. But even while I write from the shadows, I feel a compelling need to be validated, to be acknowledged, to be told that these are not just useless words strung together on a platform where millions of others do the same, that the way I string them together makes a difference somehow.

This too gets toxic quite quickly; when what I consider a quirky post fails to garner likes, or when the stats remain flat even after a week of consistent publishing. I start wondering about the credibility of my writing, and if it has any value at all outside of my own unconditional love for it. As a mother does a child, I look at my creations and enjoy the way they play out in my mind, and question if they weren’t as precious to the objective eye.

As a non-professional blogger, I feel a little unsure about what exactly I’m doing in this space. I am not an author. Do a few random pieces of prose or poetry, or musings penned once in a while allow me to give myself the coveted title of ‘writer’? In the boundless swathe of creative landscapes, is my literary mole-hill deserving of a glance?

I notice the egocentric shades that outline all my posts, smell the narcissism, and feel a little nauseous. Maybe some day I will be comfortable knowing that this is what I am, that everything I write is a part of me, and that their worth need not be measured in algorithms. Further, that perhaps this is all I can hope to be, and it’s alright.

Perhaps in time I will begin to see that I write for myself, and if it’s a way for me to love and covet and adore and embrace and entertain and indulge myself a tiny bit more, then that’s more precious than any other reason to create.

Posted in Musings

My KitKat Books

There are three kinds of books. The first kind form the majority, novels or stories that we read, and then largely forget about. The second kind carve a corner of our heart out and fills it in with quotes, smiles and dog-eared pages. The third kind are rare – books that make us wish they would never end. I call them my KitKat books.

When I was little, our family typically shopped for groceries at the beginning of every month, and made sure it lasted throughout. My share of the grocery list was one long, flat, red ‘family pack’ of KitKat chocolates. I grew up in a household that struggled financially, and years later, when I read Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, I remembered those monthly rations of chocolate that I got. The pack would hold six wrapped KitKat bars, and each bar would come split in their signature fashion into two sticks. Twelve narrow sticks of chocolate in total to last me a month. A normal child might consider eating them all together, or perhaps a couple every week, but not me. I would break each stick into half-inch cubes and have one cube every day. Looking back, I am amazed at my self-discipline. By the last day of the month, I would have a whole bar left, which I would consider a reward for my resilience and munch on happily.

Whatever self-control and patience I exhibited as a child faded along with my childhood. I am indulgent when it comes to things that I like, and no packet of snacks finds its way back to the pantry once opened. This obviously has to do with the fact that I have money now, along with supermarkets that run into the night. My tummy is beginning to bulge and my clothes have started to strangle me, but that’s a post for another day. And as with all excesses, chocolates no longer feel as delicious as they did back then.

As I mentioned in a previous post recently, calm and casual reading has never been my forte. But it just so happens that once in a blue moon, I come across a book that I love so much that it has me going slow on purpose so that I would get to relish each word and sentence for as long as possible; knowing full well that I couldn’t simply hope to go out and grab another bite once this was done, because they are so precious. I savour them the way I once did my KitKat bars. I would feel a compelling sense of sadness about the inevitable end of the book, and will myself to linger over every page. The first time the feeling took a strong hold was with the collection of short stories by Ken Liu titled “The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories”. Each story was so splendidly penned, and oozing with such magic that I kept looking forward to having a taste every day.

I feel the same with the memoir by Balachandran Chullikad, “Chidambarasmarana”. It is not oft that you find someone divulge their dark raw thoughts and painful yesterdays with abandon, and ironically, you find yourself drawn to his deeply troubled insights, and stark remarks about himself. You find yourself admiring his courage in baring himself, and wonder about the full, wretched shades of his life and the human inside the poet.

I get lost in yet another story out of his memoir and find myself contemplating about beauty and poetry and tragedy and the subtle nuances of human existence – shades of his book, shades of all our lives. The little things that go on around us that fit into bottles of sunshine, and cast rainbows against the odd tear. If only we could all be this forthcoming and unabashedly honest about ourselves.

I force myself not to move on to the next chapter and close the book, saving it like crunchy cubes of literature to relish another day.

Posted in Musings

Broken Branches

“What’s your father?”, ERN asks.

“He’s not much of anything, actually. His primary vocation was drinking with friends and selling off family property so that he could continue drinking with friends”

I was laughing out loud when I typed that, proud of my clever wording and also wondering why I had never used the line before. It was hilarious in the way tragedies tend to be when you’ve given them enough time. Like grapes you crush under your feet that end up making you a little tipsy when you take a sip after ages.

I’ve never particularly liked my father. It could be because of this quality that I have where I try to hold everyone to the same standard. Other than the obvious action of co-creating me (to which I allocated zero brownie points due to aforesaid quality), I could never think of anything impressive about my father that gained my respect. On the other hand, there was ample that I did not care for.

When I think about my childhood, all the stark memories related to him have an undercurrent of negative emotions. One day, he came home very drunk during the day, poured kerosene on our living room floor and threatened to light the house on fire; my mom made me stay at a relative’s place that night, and I burned in humiliation in the knowledge that they knew what went on at home. Once when we visited a small general store that his friend owned, I saw him wink at me and grab a banana when the guy’s back was turned, and I was aghast at the token of dishonesty. I have heard him use casteist slurs and get into physical fights – the sort of thing all other men in our extended family were too sophisticated to do, in public at least. If you tried to set background music to a montage of me growing up, it’d be drowned in drunken fights, laments about mounting loans and the sound of my mother crying.

That being said, there isn’t any dearth in villaneous stories from his childhood – stuff he would recite with some level of smugness even. How he stole money from home and gifted toy pistols to all the boys in his class. How he failed a class on purpose because his friends were bound to fail as well. How he threw such a grand party for his wedding that he ended up with a huge debt that his uncle then had to pay off. I’ve often felt my father is the poster child for the misguided and prodigal youth from rich aristocratic families.

Of course, things are better now. Rather than anger or apathy, I feel sorry for the life he had – losing his mother and a brother very early on, being abandoned by his father to all intents and purposes, being brought up by a terrorising grandfather who never spared the stick – it certainly couldn’t have been easy. But that’s about all I can bring myself to feel – sadness for everything he has been through. Not anything remotely close to love.

I remember S showing me a drawing about inter-generational trauma that I could connect to. My grandmother’s death and grandfather’s subsequent partial abandonment probably has something to do with the bipolar disorder that my father and his sister share, and which, to some extent has percolated down to me. But that is not all that I’ve inherited from him either – there is the penchant for throwing money away, the blunt and undiplomatic comments that are often my undoing, the inadvertent spilling of secrets, the uncanny trust in people, and yes, putting friends before family. Things that weirdly I’ve also come to view with a certain smugness.

As I pen this, I can’t help wondering if I would have been a more sensitive person if my childhood had been different; if this brazen callousness is a second skin that developed to cover up the crude reality of my daily life. But I also wonder if holding him responsible for my shortcomings isn’t an escape on my part. After all, I have my share of happy memories as well.

Is there anyone who isn’t broken in one way or the other?

The last time I was home, Father wanted to cut off the main shoot of our rambuttan tree so that it would grow out closer to the ground, and it’d be easier to harvest the fruits. But Mom was worried that it might never flower or bear fruit again. Apparently that happens sometimes with pruning trees.

Maybe that’s how it is with broken people as well. Everyone learns to sprout and flourish from the chopped ends, and eventually showcase a heavy green canopy, but a few might forget how to truly flower, or may shy away from bearing fruit, for fear of being cut again for it.

Posted in Musings

My Half Of A Whole

I was scrambling for something among the folders and files when the letter fell out. A remnant from another time.

There is something magical about letters. Perhaps it’s the nostalgia associated with them that we have grown to love over time, watching all those Hollywood classics. It felt like I was holding a piece of his mind, a tiny bottle of time. A reflection of something precious spread out faded ink, frozen at an earlier date. He wrote about how devastated he was, how sad, how lonely. The exchange seemed poignant and irrelevant at the same time, like re-watching a movie, and having it invoke a different feeling this time, because you know how it ends.

I do not remember what I wrote back. I clutch the letters that I have and read through some of the rest. These form half of a whole, a puzzle of sorts whose answers lie with another, destined to never unite with its counterpart that live in some obscure corner in another part of the world. I smile at the tragedy and absurdity of the idea and wonder about all the words lost in between.

It’s ironic how we live at an age when everything can be digitalised, uploaded on to drives and clouds and invisible boxes and immortalised, when every moment can be captured, every conversation recorded on text or video, and backed up into innumerable discs and across devices, and yet we find ourselves unable to retrieve any of them from the chasm of chaos that all this clutter inevitably devolves into. I constantly find myself wading through thousands of photographs and giving up, unable to place that one specific memory I would be looking for.

There are too many photographs. Too many videos. Too many long chats and texts. Too many back-ups. Too much clutter.

I wish I had more letters instead.

Posted in Musings

Fixing The Cracks

At some point in my life, I picked up the habit of never leaving a bookstore empty handed. It was a game of sorts, a self-proclaimed tradition or quirk, and perhaps a way of reassuring myself that I remained an ardent reader, even when most of those books remained untouched after the purchase.

Recently it has evolved into a different kind of addiction – the challenge of picking up books at airport bookstores that simultaneously fit my budget and are off my beaten track. I picked up two at the outset of my last journey – The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing and Japonisme by Erin Nimi Longhurst. The former has been resting at the bottom of my bag for more than a week while the latter has been a fascinating travel companion.

It is a compilation of nuggets of Japanese wisdom, culture and philosophy that feels refreshing and personal at the same time.

My introduction to Japanese culture happened when S mentioned the word ‘komorebi‘ to me once. He has an anonymous penpal who goes by the name. Komorebi is Japanese for sunlight that filters through the leaves of a tree. I instantly lost my heart to the word, and that was just the beginning. I also remember S telling me about the concept of ‘kintsugi‘ another time (he used to serve as my personal encyclopedia), the Japanese art of fixing broken things like cutlery where the cracks are highlighted in gold instead of being hidden, so that the object becomes all the more beautiful and valuable, like broken people usually are. A couple of years ago, MB introduced me to ‘ikigai‘, the blissful state in one’s life where one’s vocation, profession, mission and passion coincide – again, an eye-catcher that didn’t fail to awe. Needless to say, the book has proven to be a valuable find.

It’s always a fascinating feeling when you find words that describe things that you feel and could never elucidate on your own. I suppose that’s what I love most about Japanese. All these words for feelings of longing and sadness and nostalgia and beauty and endurance and… well, life. Like the various facets of love – koi, the selfish romantic love that keeps seeking and may remain unreciprocated, and ai, the giving, mutual, unshakeable love. Like natsukashii, a feeling of nostalgic happiness that’s tinted with just a bit of wistful poignancy, and evokes an emotion or a memory, perhaps through a scent or a scene or an article of clothing or food. Like mono no aware, the gentle sadness and sensitivity towards the inevitable ephemeral nature of life, and how everything, everything, happens for the last time once, even if you never really noticed at the time.

As I read through, I find myself sighing, smiling, accepting, and feel just the slightest tint of heaviness in my soul.

Perhaps it’s all the golden dust lining the cracks.

Posted in Musings

The Art of Hating Someone

Disclaimer regarding the image: No, I’m not a raging alcoholic (although it probably has more to do with circumstance than free will) and this is not a drunken rant. As I went through the gallery, this picture seemed to suit the event of general rambling regarding dysfunctional emotions. Go figure.

It’s getting harder and harder to hate people as I grow older. It was quite a lot easier to do at a time when I didn’t have this messed up philosophical pot pourri that I harbour in my head today that’s part nihilism, part stoicism and (a large) part post-positivist pluralistic realism. Every complicated thought finally spirals down to “everyone has a different truth that’s as valid as mine, and even if it weren’t, what was the point of it all anyway?”. Yes, you’re right, my astute mental observations hardly ever make sense.

Hate is a strong word. But sometimes it’s the one thing that can get you through a hard time. It’s so much easier to simmer in loathing than to dab in virtuous behaviours like acceptance.

According to Freud, hate is a question of self preservation; an ego state that wishes to destroy the source of its unhappiness. Sounds about right, I say. Except when you’re too empathetic for your own good, with a dash of self-loathing and a generous sprinkle of assorted insecurities, and end up a soupy cauldron of unnecessary guilt. You keep having to second guess yourself, wondering if the real issue in all of this is with the other person, or if you were simply too weak to accept a reality that doesn’t suit your choice and failed to give an appropriate response to specific circumstances. Maybe it really was all your fault.

Appropriate hatred is also difficult to attain and maintain for another reason – it takes enormous effort. The adrenaline rush of shock or disgust at betrayal wanes over time, and it keeps getting harder to maintain the same level of focus in dealing with one’s nemesis. Especially when you factor in that yours truly is rather lazy at heart. Any endeavour that requires sustained efforts get sidelined in favour of random spurts of pointless activity, and this extends to ventures such as embroiling oneself in emotional turmoil.

The tricky thing is that indifference isn’t easy to come by either. You’d think it ought to be easy to put some things to rest over time, but nooooooo. It just has to be that annoying self-deprecating obsessive pre-occupation with people that neither amounts to total abhorrence nor leads to a generous, albeit patronising, espousing of differences.

Hate means never having to say you’re sorry. I’m just a girl standing in front of a universe asking it to let me hate better.

Sigh.

Disclaimer about the other disclaimer: A couple of swigs at the bottles never hurt anyone, did it.

*Passes out*