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*

Posted in Musings

Flecks of Light

The flight back to Bangalore was also a tiny one, same as the one we took to Belagavi. Two seats on either side and tiny overhead compartments – it felt more like a long bus than a metal tube racing through the sky.

I wonder if smaller planes fly closer to the earth. Outside my window, I could still see tiny light clusters of light down below throughout the flight, as if we were simply hovering over a huge family of fireflies. Some of them filed in slow and perfect lines to secret destinations. In the overcast weather, the light clusters seemed to fade away from time to time, or sometimes blink in unison, and then came back in orange splendour, and I wondered if they weren’t sending me a code in Morse.

I smile in spite of myself, amused at this thought. Masks and face shields can indeed be a saving grace when your lips threaten to make your insanity public. We sit veiled in crowds and can bear to chortle and grin with a abandon at the oddest of times.

Alas, my camera doesn’t have the reach that my eyes do, and I’m unable to have you, dear reader, also witness the striking islands of white and red flames, the intricate hues of life, that lie scattered in my view. It is a resplendent beauty that evades being caught in time. Like all of us too, in a way, I suppose.

I move in darkness, taking in the expanse of their bright tint, and wonder whether there might not be a girl down there looking out of her window and meeting my eyes, somewhere in the midst of a lone cloud. We move in time, two flecks of light in each other’s dreams.

Could she be writing of me too?

Posted in Musings

Head Up In The Clouds

I suppose travelling has always been something of a privilege for most people, but the pandemic (isn’t it how interesting how casually we can drop the word pandemic into sentences now without a description of the year or agent?) and resultant restrictions have made it even more elusive for even more I guess. Thanks to the “Dr” attached to my name, I was among the first to get access to the vaccine in the country and the same currently gives me the ability to travel to most places without additional testing. I’m visiting half a dozen cities for work over the next two weeks, and mentioning it to friends almost feels like like something I ought to be guilty about. On the bright side, tickets aren’t hard to find.

My flying time to Belagavi perfectly fit the movie I planned to watch. When I finally looked out of the window, we were just diving down from above the clouds. It was a bright sunny day, and wisps of white clouds floated in and out of my vision as I gazed at the greenish-brown landscape that was slowly coming closer. All airports I had been to previously were located in cities, and the views at take-off and landing were always of buildings and bustling roadways. Belagavi was peculiar in this respect – it seemed like we were heading towards nothing but large expanses of land fashioned into rectangular strips, like brownish bricks interspersed with moss.

A few small clusters of houses appeared from time to time, tidy blocks of villages or tiny towns with red-tiled roofs set in array like matchboxes. A lone road sprung from them and could be seen winding across the mossy green, before melting into the countryside at some point.

Once we got even closer, I realised that the brown blocks had subtle neat lines of saplings running across them as well.

My life often seems so huge up close. Big jarring details and complicated textures. But then, as I look down at these tiny matchbox homes and huge expanses of invisible saplings, I can see myself as a simple speck on a greenish brown landscape, perhaps on a winding twine. There’s really nothing all that jarring about a speck.

I guess it’s nice to have your head up in the clouds from time to time, if only to get a bit of perspective. 🙂

Posted in Musings

Relief

“For a while now, it had been hard to put a finger on my emotions. What I was feeling now was crystal clear. Loss. Disappointment. Relief.”

Some parts of Worm reverberate with me on a deeper level, and this was one of those. I read them as Skitter, but felt them as myself. The thing about art – be it literature, films or caricatures – is that they speak to you and show you things that you may have long ignored. Or they show you scenarios you’ve known and let you see that you weren’t alone in knowing them. You see another’s poetry or painting and understand yourself in a different way.

Loss, disappointment and relief. Not a trinity that might have easily occurred to me, but now that I read it, I see how well it fits. Not all loss is a tragedy. Not all disappointment is unfortunate. Sometimes, they quietly pave way for relief…, and the rest of your life.

Amalgum

Sometimes, I sit back and wonder about how we are all amalgamated pieces of a thousand virtues and flaws thrown together in varied proportions; each person a certain measure of generosity, a certain measure of insecurity, a certain measure of boring, of clairvoyance, of sweet, of irritating, of brutality, of kindness, of jealousy, of honesty, of a million other adjectives thrown together to make a human. Same ingredients, different recipes. Same molecules, different chemistry.

Funny, isn’t it?

Posted in Musings

P And Me

The most toxic anxious-avoidant relationship that every woman gets into has got to be with her Period. P is that guy who starts out by being a total creep, who we learn to accomodate over time and later become obsessed over. We boast about him when he’s well-behaved and worry about him when he’s not. We schedule plans as per his whims, get stood up multiple times. We always keep an eye out for his arrival, and be prepared to take care of him when he lands without a moment’s notice. And don’t get me started on all the emotional manipulation.

Yes, I’m late. 😒