Karma takes Time

Have you ever seen how pigeons almost seem to have serious discussions once in a while? This one there is telling the other one, “Hey, my interview sucked! This guy was such a prick!”, and this one’s saying, “It’s okay man! Apply in other places. In fact send me a copy of your resume, I’ll see if I can do something, send it to a few folks, maybe…” “Thanks man I was just hoping-”

“Hey Abhijit? Hey?”

“Um Sir, yes? I was just, uh, going over the statistics in my head”

“Mm hmm, and what do they indicate to you?”

“Sir, well I think the current production needs to be vetted and there has to be a thorough process flow of things. The market demands are not being met, and there’s too much backlog, so we need a strategy. Right?”

“Er, right…”

After a few more minutes of such officious sounding crap the meeting got over. So I need to now go back to my cubicle. Where there will be no pigeon sightings. Where I’ll have to see other people who I don’t want to see. Where I’ll have to see people, period. Why can’t we have pigeons instead of people? Pigeons are smarter. Pigeons get it.

In walks Ms. Precious. Oh wait Mrs. Precious. Bitch. I can’t even hate her properly. Why does she have to look all smiley and chirpy? I mean be a bitch, but at least look the part. Confusing us like that. She looks over at me and her smile falters a bit. But credit where its due- she’s good. No one would ever know of the slight hardening at the corners of her mouth, or they way her eyes seemed to glaze over, or the way her nostrils flared for a micro second.

No one would and has known, for instance that we were once together. Together together. Deciding to spend our lives together. No one knows that we spent nearly every waking moment together for the last year and a half. A year and seven months and a week. But who’s counting?

No one knows that now Ms. Hoity Toity has gotten married to someone else, and had informed me a week before getting married to Mr. Man. One week. One. Fucking. Week.

The reason I’m in a kerfuffle today (Kerfuffle, hah! I love that word. Makes me think of kittens) is that I’ve had a night yesterday. Oh boy. What a night! It was my birthday yesterday, so naturally I spent it in darkness, downing some vodka. As you do.  And then some friends of mine came over, in high spirits. I mean what the hell. All I did was manage not to die for 365 days. Which, all things considered, has been a feat. They seem to want to wake up the dead, and take them for a night out. All they wanted me to do was give them an excuse to get stoned. So I did. Fine. Whatever.

The only problem is that today I feel like vultures picked on parts of my brain. Specifically the part that had been trying to keep it under control and being civil to people. Yeah, that’s gone. Also with it, gone is the part where I was trying to forget everything. Forget that we ever were with each other. Forget that we ever sat with each other, sharing secrets, laughter, kisses. I can’t seem to turn it on. The switch where I remember to forget everything, every single day. Today has been an assault on my memory and senses. My senses triggering memories that I had thought I had put to sleep. My heart is a werewolf and today’s full moon.

What the hell is WRONG with me? Where am I getting my lines? I’m making myself sick. Like physically sick. I have to stop. I can do this. All I really have to do is concentrate on my earlobes, or my nails or my work (yeah right), and before I know it this day would have been done. I’ll climb into my single bed. My flatmate would have already been sleeping and I’m just going to lie there. In darkness. I can’t wait. Meanwhile there’s also going to be lunch. That will be one hour gone. So how many are left then? Three, four… anyway a few more hours left.

I’m only beginning to get back into control when she again slips past me. Giggling. She has the nerve to giggle. She’s talking about her husband. I swear I’m so tired of this. Tired of smiling with everyone else and then giving a fractured fake laugh at her marital jokes. Tired of never saying anything to her. Not saying that I’m angry, not saying that she hurt me. That I really miss her, and hate her, and love her. I think right now, I hate her more than I love her. Way more.

I sit at lunch. Not bothering to smile. There’s too much else to occupy my time. There is food. Why do they call it munchies? Because of the sound you make when you eat? Interesting word. Hmm. So much rice. God, the curry is amazing. I could eat a gallon of this. And why haven’t I noticed the pickle. It’s SO good. As I’m vacuum cleaning my plate of food I see her again. She’s talking about her honeymoon spent shopping in Bali.

I am filled with so much rage, I wish I had poisoned her food. Not enough to make her die- just run to the toilet some twenty times a day for a week at least. Or maybe three of four days.

I have a plan. In the bigger scheme of things, it is nothing, really. After the lunch I’m sitting and napping at my desk. As we do. “Abhijit, could you please come here?” “Uh yeah yeah. I’m here.”

Informal meeting on the floor. I stand near her and give her a smile. She looks uncertain because I haven’t smiled since her wedding. Which was 23 days ago. But who’s counting? “Meetings after lunch, right? So drowsy!” I whisper to her. “Yeah…” Tentative smile. I think she thinks she’s off the hook. Bitch. “Do you want some coffee? I’ll get some”

“Er, yeah sure, Why not?”

I excuse myself, and get two coffees. One cappuccino with extra sugar, and one latte. In which I spat.

I take it back to her. She seems grateful for the latte. Takes it almost to her lips, puts it back. Does this routine twice before she actually takes a sip. And then…wait, has she figured it out? No! “it’s very hot. Haha” “haha” I say, obediently.

During the meeting, I feel happy. I don’t concentrate on the meeting. Productivity, blah blah, motivation, blah blah. I’m truly happy. Redemption. One coffee at a time. I mean, even I know it’s petty. But I want to be petty, okay? I’m allowed. I’m the dumpee.

After serving her 57 lattes over the course of 80 days, I’m done.

I’m done being angry. She doesn’t like the lattes anymore. Wonder why.

 

 

 

 

City of Journey

Shorey jao dada!”(Move forward) rings a loud voice, right next to my ear. This has to be the most annoying day of my week. It’s a Wednesday. Everyone knows Wednesdays are worse than Mondays. You’re entrenched in the mess that is your work week. It’s 43 degrees in the middle of April. My boss is waiting to have a ‘meeting’ with me. My wife is upset because I didn’t make my son eat his breakfast and ran off. My mother-in-law is at home, who doesn’t help matters. India is not playing too well. I forgot to wear my watch. I’m thirsty and sweaty and it’s only morning. I don’t have a seat in the bus, because I ran to catch the one that was taking off, so as not to keep waiting at the bus stand. There are so many others here. If I’m not careful I’m sure some self righteous woman will assume I’m groping her and bash me on the head. I’m not groping anyone. I couldn’t, even if I wanted to. I can’t wait for the day to be over.
If I think over it, I couldn’t wait for a lot of days to be over. I don’t know where my joie de vivre has left me. Perhaps I left it one day on a bus like this one. And now it’s gone. Maybe someone else who needed it picked it up and is sitting in another bus, smiling, chatting and generally anticipating a good day. It is Kolkata after all- the city of joy. My city, in a way. My wife keeps telling me to stop being so grumpy all the time to my mother-in-law. Well the woman IS batty. My mother-in-law, I mean. Although, my wife’s not too far behind. Idiots, the lot of them! “Joy” she says, “Can’t you even have dinner in peace?” What peace? I want to watch the bloody football. It is my house! My TV! And my time! Except they want to watch a soap where all the women will be decked up and behave like everything shocks them. Vile, vapid vixens.
Dada deche deche koro na!” Again the conductor goes past me. I marvel at how the conductor seems unfazed by the heat or the crowd or life, really. He took it, maybe. My joie de vivre. As I’m trying to think of anything except about the single line of sweat dripping down my neck to my back, I spot a seat. Now, this is no time to twiddle my thumbs. If you need a seat, you have to wrestle and claw your way to it. There’s no old person who can make me feel guilty for taking the seat and I’m gunning for it. There! Got it! There. Oh! to have a seat under your backside.
How did I get here? How did this become important to me? Not the seat- this mediocrity. This life.
The woman sitting next to me seems to be in an even sourer mood, if that’s possible. She’s clenching her fingers on the seat handle like she wants to wring it. Or maybe she’s imagining it to be someone’s neck. The way the driver’s at it, it’s good to hold on to something though. Everyone’s had it with this week. Except maybe the conductor. Well, I still have about half an hour to go. I find myself snoozing a little. Didn’t have my coffee today. I stop fighting it. I can do a power nap. Anyway I will wake up if I get a call. Just ten minutes.
****
I can’t do power naps, obviously. My phone has switched off. I don’t know what time it even is. Except- it is definitely almost afternoon. There are very few passengers on the bus. The lady next to me seems to have moved away. I fumble to understand where I am. I get up in frenzy. Let me ask the conductor. When I go up ahead, I see the lady who was sitting next to me is sitting in the seat next to the driver. They seem to be in a chatty mood. Laughing, giggling and what have you.
The conductor tells me they’re nearing the last stop. Which is basically an hour on the other side of my office. I rush to leave, but the conductor assures me that they’re going to be departing again soon and will go back the same way. Within about 45 minutes I should reach my office. I relent. There’s anyway going to be thunder clouds at work. What can I do by running around now?
Truth be told, I think my nap has helped me a little. I’m glad my cell phone battery has died. My wife can’t call me to tell me what I did wrong. My mother-in-law can’t tell me to get groceries while I come back. Groceries in which there is invariably something amiss- so I have to change it, and also feel like I have to apologize to her.
I take a seat again. This time next to a window. Any amount of breeze helps. The conductor sits next to me. I observe the two again. By this time there’s no one in the bus except the conductor, the driver, the lady and yours truly. The lady and the driver seem more than chatty. They’re almost…romantic. She speaks to him, laughs and then looks coyly at him. He seems to be laughing a little. I can tell even though he is looking ahead on the road by the mirrors. His eyes seem to be laughing at least. That’s for sure. I see them holding hands fleetingly.
I look at the conductor, almost embarrassed to have caught an intimate moment. I have no reason to feel this way, but I feel like I witnessed not hand holding but much much more. The conductor lets loose a belly laugh, rattling his spry frame. He caught me, then. I look up at him again, and find his laughter ebbing away, giving way to a bemused expression. He narrates to me that these two have been in love for over a year. Every morning they take a bus ride together. She comes in with her face powdered, lips painted and bangles jangling. They share a smile or two, some knowing glances and then they have a conversation.
Protidin?” (Every day?) I ask, incredulous. Surely not!
Hain, Onudeen” (Day after day)
“Are they…?”
“Married? No”
“Oh”
She is about twenty, a billing agent in a supermarket. Her shift starts in the afternoon. They share a lunch, after which she carries on with her day. He has a wife and three children at home.
Bhalobasa E Jibon, na eta?” (Love is life, isn’t it?)
I stammer something. By the time I could form a response the conductor has moved on as a few passengers have come in. I observe the duo for a while longer. Maybe it was five minutes. Maybe it was thirty. They looked drunk on something. Her earlier anger seems to have dissolved. He is driving the bus smoothly. For them, life seems to have it. I’m sure they don’t want this day to be over.
I startle from my trance, as the bus reaches my stop finally. Later that day, as I go for the meeting, the discussions, the phone calls, emails and the grocery shopping, for the first time in a while, I don’t want the day to just get over. Middle of the week notwithstanding. In fact when I went home, I smiled at my wife. She didn’t do anything extraordinary. She was still telling me about the tough day she had the moment I got in. But well, I couldn’t help smiling. “Joy? Can’t you listen to me? Why are you smiling?”
Don’t ask me why, but that made me smile even more.

The Storymonster

“And then madam, then my father threw me into the sea so that we could save my sister. She was only three, poor girl, when we were attacked by the crocodile.”

“Really? Where was this?”

“Oh, I was in Lakshwadeep islands.”

“Fascinating…”

This was in the middle of yet another story in Manju’s repertoire. Something to leave people wanting to know more about him. To make them think he was charming and captivating. Something that made him think that way about himself. As Manju weighed all the newspapers and magazines, calculating how much he would have to pay for all this, he had spun his ‘real-life story’ on how he ended up in these circumstances. He would, of course, be back in a month or so. They always called him back. The newspapers and magazines never stopped. They weren’t used after a month or so. Maybe they could be used for lining the shelves, or cleaning the mirrors. But even for those, there were substitutes now. Shinier or softer stuff- which meant all of these papers were plain old trash.

Manju wondered whether they were read at all. If read, then were they read properly?  Whether anyone really read the small print where they announced somebody dying, or whether they actually read when the chemistry exam papers were leaked. He knew they didn’t- that’s how he got his stories.

“Manju bhaiya, tea?”

“No madam, tea causes me to have immense problems nowadays”

“Oh! why so?”

“Actually madam, I went to the doctor when I developed a strange rash on the back of my neck and he said that there are certain chemical compounds in Chai that don’t work with certain genetic builds. I’m better now madam.”

After some meandering about researches Manju winds up, takes the newspapers, pays 120 rupees and leaves with his ‘assistant’.

“What rash?” Gopi, said assistant, asks in the elevator, trying to lug the bundle of newspaper.

“Nothing” Sighs Manju “They why mention it” “No reason”. Gopi did not understand his brother’s narratives. Sometimes Gopi was the assistant, occasionally he was rescued from the circus. Now and then Manju was an erstwhile grave digger, sometimes he would be a Bangladeshi refugee running away from a clothing conglomerate after burning the factory down. This one time Manju gave the story that he used to be a security guard in a big jewellery store and had single handedly stopped a heist, much before the police arrived. Also, one time Manju was a hawaldar in the police and then he took a retirement because he couldn’t take all the pressure and stress.

They both reached the ground floor of the apartment. Manju of course, stopped to speak with the security guard and give him advice, on account of him having been through it all. Then they proceeded to walk out towards their raddhi shop (junkyard for selling old newspapers) down the road. After they reached, they both flopped down on the low stools and sat under the fan on full speed, which was rarely ever enough.

Manju took out a droopy looking cigarette from his pocket and lit it. Then as he was wont to do, he picked up one of the magazines and started leafing through them. Gopi closed his eyes and sat for a while, a tiny, almost unnoticeable frown on his brow. He was worried about his son’s behaviour. He was beginning to lie to him about things. Why though? He wondered. He had never shouted at him, he never raised a hand to him. One more thing to find out. When he opened his eyes Gopi saw Manju taking a small kullad of chai from the tea seller. Rash, my foot, he thought. If he gets rash from the tea, then I get knee pain from the air.

Manju sat sipping on his tea, reading the astrology section, and then the fashion section. After a bit of tea and smoking, Manju had already read one magazine and a whole newspaper. Gopi gets a call on his mobile phone, from a possible client. “No it’s the raddhi shop. You can sell newspapers books etc for the current rate.” “9 rupees per kg.” “Okay, madam, in half an hour, where?” “Okay”. They have more work.

Thus they get up and walk to another house. Where Manju will of course spin another tale. This time, he has decided, he will say he used to be an astrologer, or maybe that he still is practicing it. Manju knew why he did it. In fact he knew why his nephew lied. He also knew that Gopi was always irritated or puzzled or shocked, but he did not know why this was. He needed stories. He needed to not only know stories. He needed to be one every time. As with stories, you always need a new one. He felt powerful. Holding reality, feeding them lies, filling them up with wonder and with hope, with alarm and excitement. Well, that’s why he did it. If we are who we say we are, and we like what we say we like, then Manju wanted to be as many people as possible.

Same drill- security guard, going to the elevator, going to the house. Starting with a tale. Telling so many innocuous lies that it was difficult to separate truths from lies. The madam was not there, the man said. He could give the newspapers and books though. This man was not like his regulars. He listened to the stories, almost amused. He didn’t even bat an eyelid when he mentioned anything which was almost too incredible. Perhaps it would have been nice if there was someone else to listen to the stories, this wasn’t nearly as fun, thought Manju.

This was fun, thought Ravi. An ex-astrologer who predicted the death of so many people, and ‘helped’ them not befall the tragedy! And he had developed warts from hot water. He listened to it all, controlling his chuckles.

Later that night, when Ravi went to give his daughter a kiss good night, he stopped to tell her a story. He told her elaborate tales- of dragons and dungeons, unicorns and centaurs. About the time one could light the whole universe with a single candle. About trains that never stopped. He saw excitement in his daughter’s eyes, her many questions on the story and the way he could tell she was almost in the glowing  garden, or swimming with the mermaids. This was thrill, this was making someone believe in things you knew didn’t happen.

He knew. He knew why that man did it.

Chivalry is probably Dead

When I was first able to take an Uber on my own- I felt a thrill. A no-new-stories teen like me, booking, taking and paying for a cab on my own! (it wasn’t technically my money but whatever). I know boys my age are supposed to be cooler than that. But hey, I’d never say it out loud. Now I’m an old hand at these. Take today for example- I went to this party and of course I’d had a few drinks, now we have an Uber which can take us home. So simple.

It’s chilly at first, then I feel like I’m feeling hot – a sure sign that I’m high as a kite. I’ve just come here to drop off my friend Preeta. Man, she lives in this crazy ass place. I didn’t want her to go home alone because then she’d whine all day tomorrow about how scared she’d been, and what crazy sightings she had. There’s a cemetery near her place and she’s an attention seeking witch. I’d much rather just get done with it.

We’re both zoning out in the car- she’s so much more bombed than I am. She’s now talking about stars. Seriously. I am in danger of becoming sober. I’m also hoping that she doesn’t feel nauseous, because this one time we were at a party and after like one shot, she was all swaying and then- she puked on my shoes. Not an experience I want to repeat, because this time, I might actually join her. So I’m game if she wants to talk about stars or robots. Hell, I’d even throw in prompts like “circus” and “animals” if it gets her to not focus on heaving.

Looking at her now, I don’t know why I was bonkers about her. When I was seventeen, she seemed like an answer to my prayers. But now when I look at her- she’s so lame. She talks about getting new clothes all the damn time and yet I see her wearing the same jeans everyday. Like what does she do, buy it and store it somewhere? And like directly donate them to some charity? I loathe everything- her stupid geek glasses, her pseudo smartness, her torn jeans. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. She’s going to go home. I’ll turn around and go my way.

….

Shoot. Turns out, I’ve to book a cab again after I dropped her. All I get is an Uberpool. Not so bad, but it’s 3am. I’m a little miffed that I can’t go alone. What if this fellow rider is super talkative, and asks me about my future plans or gives me a lecture about staying out late? I’m so not in the mood to talk. Ah well, whatever gets me to my bed. This cabbie is not chatty, at all. I mean I don’t want someone to bore me to death talking about the state of the country or anything, but at least he could answer me when I talk. Tool.

Taking a cab from my friends place is not without its problems. There’s no internet signal in that area or any kind of network connection for that matter. I’ve to literally just look out the window. The music system in this cab doesn’t work, and I’m on the last 6 percent of my battery. Looking at the window is pretty much my only option.

I’m not always sentimental- but maybe because of the time or maybe because I’m high, the moonlight feels so new, so different. As if I’m seeing it for the first time. The cab stops to pick up my fellow rider. Whoever it is, is taking their own sweet time. I mean where is this person coming from? There’s no buildings that I could see nearby, only a cemetery. I’m just thinking if saving my battery is really worth it, when the door opens. In comes in a woman wearing a white sari.

Hah! What did they think, they’d fool me? That I’d scream? This is rich. Like come on! A woman wearing a white sari- near a cemetery- what do they take me for! No one except kids below ten years of age would fall for this. They really should have tried harder. She’s pretty though. If you like that tall, full figured, long hair, big eyes kind of thing. So yeah, she’s pretty hot. I smile at her. Duh. She kind of smiles back.

I decide to whatsapp my friends that the show’s over. They can just end it. But they’re all sleeping I guess. Anyway, meanwhile I try to talk to her. “It’s really cold, isn’t it?”

“Yeah…its that time of the night” okay…

“Where are you going to get dropped?” An ordinary question should work

“After you”

“Oh” How does she know where I’m getting dropped?

“Are you working?” Something normal, simple

“You can say that” What? I didn’t mean like now. Is she a prostitute?

I need to check my phone. There’s one message in the group. It’s from Karan, and it reads: what? What prank? Dude you’re high. 4% battery. So they don’t know anything, is it? Maybe I should ask the driver to talk. The driver is here, he may not exactly be Steve Martin, but he’s at least here. I look up to notice this woman staring at my face.  “Um, where are you from?” Keep it light, keep her engaged.

“From where I took the cab” okay, that was a nowhere. It really is chilly. I give a tiny, unmanly, shiver.

“Bhaiya, AC off karr do” even though I ask the driver to switch off the air conditioner, it looks like he’s not even heard me.

“So it’s pretty late huh?” I ask, keeping up this getting-weirder-by-minute noir drama.

“Is it?” One normal answer God, please.

I’m not quite near my house, there’s almost no one around. Shops are closed. There’s occasionally a truck passing by in high speed in the flyover. We get off the flyover and are nearing one of the lanes, and the car stops abruptly. My cabbie turns and looks at her. It’s quite something, you see, he looks at her like he’s angry. After a second she just gets out of the cab and leaves! I try to follow where she’s going but the moment I turn for a second to look at my driver, and turn back, poof. She’s gone. The relief is so palpable I exhale for the longest time. And about time, because my phone is now dead. The car starts again.

By now I’m sure she was a prostitute and she would have gotten money out of me. People are into weird shit. Whatever floats their boat, I suppose. I’m just relieved that my driver took care of this. Man, this is good. He didn’t even say a word. I’m totally giving him 5 stars. Saved my life. I mean, not that I thought there was any real danger, but I was creeped out. Now I just really want to go home. I’m pretty much sober now, though I’m sweaty like I’ve run a mile.

“Thank you bhaiya! Why did she get out like that?”

“She’s not needed”

“But she told me she will get out last…”

“She in the wrong car, you know”

“Oh, so she was supposed to be in another cab?” I highly doubt that.

“She was here to take you, kid. You know what she was”

As in? A prostitute?

“She’s often seen in that area, getting out of the cemetery at around the same time. In the past year four cars have gone missing.”

I think I go a little pale. A ghost then. Preeta was right! She talked about seeing things. How close I’d come. Seriously. I can only imagine everyone’s reaction tomorrow. Everyone would have been searching for me- only I would be missing. God knows where.

Showing the last bit of my bravado, I say “But nothing happened…how far are we from home?”

At this the car stops. My driver stops, turns and stares at me. “Do you know why she wasn’t needed?”

No…no I didn’t…

“Why?”

“Because I’m already here.” He smiles for perhaps the first time in the whole one hour. His eyes are slightly bloodshot. The smell from his open mouth facing me, is like rotting carcass. “Don’t you think two ghosts in one car is overkill, kid?”

….

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                                                                            Image from favim.com

(Psst… Uber is awesome, though.)

Of Fear and Shame

A pundit, a man of god, supposedly a master astrologer- decreed for a friend of mine, that she is a maanglik– cancer of the stars. If you are a woman who is found with this- you better not marry- if you do you marry someone who is has the same ‘problem’. Otherwise, your betrothed will die. Clearly forgetting that we’re mortals anyway. If this wasn’t petrifying enough- there’s more- it was also said that if she marries, her husband/s will either commit suicide or be murdered. If shaming wasn’t enough- there’s a shitload of fear that is also added into the mix. Basically, what they’re saying is: a) You should be ashamed because your stars are aligned just so defectively *downcast eyes of the maanglik* and b) You should be scared. You should be panicking!

Here’s what some people can think: Dear God! my daughter/ sister/ I should never say this to anyone. Because if they find out, who will marry my daughter/sister/ me? Maybe there’s some way, some ritual, dakshina/ bribery I can give the Gods, through the said pundit, of course, that they will consider reversing this atrocious state. There must be some ring that can be worn for this very thing, at the least. The afflicted can also assume that s/he is utterly ruined. No matter that the person is an IT professional- working to help his/her family repay all their loans and is in many ways what would be termed as independent.

Fear is that acid that can corrode the most concrete of substances. It can make you feel that you should not be experiencing your contentment and elation- because at any moment it will be taken away. It is that burly old principal who keeps warning you to study, even though all the exams are over. Evolutionarily speaking, fear has point. Think about it, if you were camping out in a jungle, there are two scenarios. Scenario one is when your brain screams “Dude, I bet there’s a tiger out there. Better scoot” when there actually is no tiger. i.e., a type i error. Or there’s scenario two when there’s actually a tiger near you, and your brain keeps mum- a type ii error. In which one would you have a better chance being alive? In scenario one- if you think it’s scenario two, then you’re probably one of those freaks who makes intense (and weird) eye contact with leopards. Seriously, it’s a thing. So, basically you’d rather have a type i error, than a type ii error- which can be fatal.

Where fear prevents us from being in the present because we’re busy watching a scary slide show of our future, shame would not let us get away from our past- because it would constantly make you feel like anything you’d done is so beneath awful that you’d better not tell anyone about it. Not only about what you’ve done- it will make you feel like you are bad just never good enough. Shame is what would make you feel like you don’t deserve what you want- “don’t even tell other’s you’re maanglik“- shame. Shame is what would make you feel like the life you’re living, the accomplishments you have are all phony. You will never belong, you’re faking it, and you know it, it screams.

Where fear has an evolutionary purpose- to alert us to danger, shame does not even have that. Both of them will stop you- even from seeking help. Which is why we have to recognize what they look like. Shame is harder to identify. Shame is anyone telling you that you’re just not smart/pretty/talented/rich enough. Shame is fashion magazines telling you that you can’t carry off a look unless you’re a certain height. Shame is you telling yourself-“This is why I must still be single”. Shame is anyone telling you that you’re a little too dark. Shame is anyone telling you- “This is why your husband/ wife must have left you!”

When we are confronted with fear, we need to understand that our brain means well. We can choose to think- ‘thank you, I know you want the best for me, but I’m cool.’ We can also constantly be taken for a ride. You don’t like it, but you’re convinced that if there’s one percent chance of an accident happening, it’s going to happen to you. When we are living with shame- we need to say NO, and we need to say it loud enough. The best way for shame to incubate is silence. Silence can sometimes be the least Zen thing on the planet.

For the record, I’m told that I am a maanglik. I neither know what it means, nor do I care to google it. Bite me.

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(Image courtesy: Weheartit)

 

 

 

A Greenhouse of Gratitude

I did not just happen. I

became.

This girl who knows nothing, or this girl who knows too much.

Either way, I have much to be thankful for.

I thank the earthlings who became my family.

I thank the school across the road, with its tiny wooden chairs.

I thank the teacher that slapped me right across the face.

I thank the girl who shared her lunch.

I thank the boy that made me laugh,

I thank the man who made me cry,

I thank the people who laughed at me,

I thank the ones who wept with me.

I thank the ones who insulted me,

I thank those who admired me.

I thank the universe for making me who I am.

Just who I am. Real and imperfect.

I love how this list can be endless, and for that

I thank my stars.

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Prisoner of Azkaban

“Honey, we have to cover this up, it looks so ugly over there!” I look up to see my wife pointing at a space in the wall which is disfigured and uneven due to water seepage. “Can we put this painting there? That way it doesn’t show? Right?”

“Yes, that would be okay”

With glee, she says “I am the master of deception. Ha! No one will ever guess! I’m so glad I found this big thing lying around in the attic. It’s not that pretty, but then it’ll do. Better than that disaster isn’t it?”

A little nodding and an occasional “yes”, “right”, “hmm” from my side, was all that was needed.

I had to eventually move from my chair and help her with putting the painting in the wall.

Later that night, I sat reading and my eyes went there. To the wall. I did not know why but looking at that painting made me furious. Filled me with a rage so intense that I wanted to not only throw that blasted painting, but also destroy the wall. My hands were clenched into fists so hard there were crescents on my palm from my nails. I sat there transfixed. Looking at it and breathing hard. What was it about this?

Master of deception, she’d called herself. A short, bitter laugh escapes me. Deception, I thought was an art that I had perfected with practice. Deception was my entire existence. Deception was living a lie, growing a moustache to look ‘manly’ as my wife calls it, flirting with the receptionist, procreating with my wife to have children, faking a headache every other night right before going to bed, or saying that there was so much of work. Deception was talking to the love of my life and pretending to everyone that I’m talking to my best friend.

I lie back in the chair and let out a breath. Asked myself the millionth time why I was doing this? Was there another way? Maybe there was and I was just too…constricted to see it. I knew why I was doing this. My wife. She is wonderful. We lead a comfortable life. If anything goes amiss, it upsets her. This would destroy her. My two adorable daughters. I often marvel that I had any part in creating them. They’re so lovely and pure and clean. My job- I’m respected, feared, even. I’m good at what I do. I have everything to lose.

I’m living in a free world, or so they say. My soul is in Alcatraz maybe. Or in Azkaban, about which my daughter was telling me about. That seems fitting. Can I free myself? I’m so tired of this fight. Maybe I should just die. The secret will die with me. I’d have died an honorable man. I feel tears on my cheeks. I allow myself the luxury of crying for a lost cause for a few moments. Dying is no solution at all, though. I cannot leave my family. Can I get out of this prison?

I decide to tell my wife tomorrow. Tell her that some things are so powerful that they cannot be hidden. That I yearn for a love that she can never give me. That it isn’t her fault. That I’m sorry. That I’m more sorry than I can ever say. That I do love her. She’s been my best friend all these years. My lover, the mother of my children. I want to tell her that I don’t want this. If there was a way I could be different I’d be different in a heartbeat. I have tried. When I was getting married to her, I thought I could be okay. That I’d be normal, like everyone else. I prayed. I fasted. I was in penance for so long.

I’ve been searching for redemption for years. I probably will never find it. And yet, I remember some moments when I felt like I was not sinning. The love I have for him. It is unadulterated, a longing that I cannot measure. How can something that feels so right, be so wrong. I don’t understand. If anyone in my family gets a whiff of this, they will not only condemn me, they will kill me.

“Come to bed, honey!”  My wife hollers from the bedroom.

“Yes, I will. In just a little while! Some work I should finish, okay?”

“Okay…”

If I Stay

Why do I live?
I ask myself while I sit in the bathroom, a blade in my hand.
Why! What’s the point?
When life has beaten me at every turn, why do it the courtesy of staying?
Why should I?
If I could just sink that sharp edge into my wrist.

How would it feel?
Would it be like when I cut my thigh?

The darkly bright life seeping out.

Yes, why should I live?
Just one more minute- and it ends.
What would I be after? Undead, dead, existing, a spirit, another life or nothing?
Would I be what I want in death? Sure as hell couldn’t in life.
Enough. A minute’s gone by. No more.
Courage, dear Heart. Have courage and sink that metal in your flesh.
I should not live. I mustn’t. I dare not.

I wipe my eyes.

Some deep breaths,

I never have to take another.

What was that? Was it just me? I felt tremors.
As if to prove me right it happened again;

This time some bottles fell.
I slide the windows open; there is so much movement.

As if the universe itself took us all by our shoulders and shook us.
I have to get out. I have to.

I hear frantic voices.

I hear children crying.
Should I? Isn’t this the perfect opportunity? I just have to close my eyes.

Everything around me will shatter and I will be buried.

If only there wasn’t so much crying!
It should have only been me! Only me. This was my battle.
Not like this. Not when my dying means nothing.
I get out; in a matter of minutes buildings are collapsing.

The things I read never mentioned how the dust seeps so deep,

You feel like it will never leave.
I’m in a maze of death,

I’ve never wanted to live more.

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Portrait of a Fortune Teller

I feel cloistered and caged, literally. It’s a sad life when you’re just somewhat exotic and paraded around. People think I have all the answers to the universe. A cosmic encyclopedia, you can say. They don’t think about me as having any feelings, and they would never acknowledge my help anyway. This is my life. When you do nothing all day but feel exhausted right down to the bone, you realize that existence is such a drag. Can’t fly, can’t be, just strut around, and look poised, calm and stately, while inside you just want to end this. I don’t really know what to do, but what else can I do?

My owner is fat old woman. She refuses to let age dictate her and wears bright blinding yellows and tangerines and reds- the rainbow would take a bow. Jasmine and roses are piled in her hair. Her lips are red, probably from the betel leaves she has been chewing. Today, we have company. There’s another old lady sitting beside us, taking our expert opinions and future predictions about her life. She has her hand held by the fat lady, palm facing upwards, and regaled with tales and predictions. A montage of future and past which is shrouded in mystery and marvel, omens and affirmations, things that match her life exactly and things that don’t slightly. Her son is not disobedient really, but then maybe he is. This gypsy woman has to be right, she thinks. They all do. She certainly was about at least four things.

The four things she mostly right about are: a) you are, at heart a simple person. Well, who isn’t? Even a crime lord would agree. b) You like taking care of people around you. Whoop-de-da. c) You never get the money/care/future you definitely deserve. Well, does anyone? And d) You have come to a grave trouble recently. These dolts are sitting on a threadbare mattress believing that me, a parrot will guide them to their future. They have grave troubles all right. The woman, whose palm and life is momentarily in another’s hands, is nodding her head eagerly, as if to reassure herself and the other woman, to go on. What more can you tell me? Will my daughter get married again? What about my husband, is he happy wherever he is? Is his spirit in peace? What about money? Will I get more this month? Would things be better? The fat lady sighs as a doctor would, wondering what to tell this patient, that I don’t know what this disease even is, leave alone it’s medicine.

Then, at the end of that whole routine, the fat lady opens my cage, if you can call a four by four (centimeters, in my case) old and smelly contraption that, with a flourish.The sun is a mammoth blinding orb, which I get to see once in a while, like now.I walk on the cards arranged by her side on the mattress. I pick one out, hovering, walking a little, as much as I can get away with without the fat lady being suspicious, and then pick one of many ancient looking moth infested cards. Then, as if giving me a prize she throws three or four (on a good day) grams.  My foot is tied to the cage. I’m practically seventy percent of her sales pitch. I go back in and the solar system is in alignment again, as far as my owner is concerned.

The card is picked up, studied, lamented and nodded over. Then with a graveness that signals one to hush, the fat lady explains to the woman about everything. Yes, her daughter would get married again next year. The man would come to them himself. Yes, your husband seems happy and tells you to not mourn for him anymore. If you are wise you will save a lot this year, and by the end of next year you may unexpectedly come about a lot of money. Yes! It is clear from your cards. These don’t lie, my dear. Have faith. Oh, the ennui!

After one or two questions where the client realizes that nothing else comes to her mind, she pays her from the little red purse she takes out from her blouse. She gets up slowly, her bones cracking and walks ahead, to the vegetable vendor.

We’re alone again. She gets up as well, buys some food, ready for the long day ahead. Talking to other people among whom prominently there is the woman selling vegetables, the cobbler, and the boy making sugarcane juice, the man having the stall selling dried prawns, the man who sits on a rusty machine and sharpens old knives. She talks about her son. Can they give him a job? Also, do they know of a remedy for coughing? Do they also have grand children? She tried asking me for some predictions, whatever card I picked up, she threw. I guess I’m not that supernatural after all. At the end of the day, we go home and then I’m kept in the corner of the kitchen where I talk just to hear the sound of my voice, until someone gets irritated by that and clouts my cage. Fortune telling is hard work.

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Things We Lost in the Fire

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”

-Friedrich Nietzsche

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No faerie wings could be as fragile, no dandelion as ephemeral as trust- trusting someone or something. It’s the bedrock of all our ideologies, and our belief in people. The world will become, and probably is a scary place, for a lot of us, when we find ourselves unable to trust. Because if we can’t trust anybody, anything, even ourselves, then how are we going from one day to the next?

“But how can I trust him again, how?! It is killing me that I can’t”

Heard that? I have. It sucks when you feel like there has been a breach of trust so extreme that someone whom you would have allowed to lead you anywhere blindfolded, you just can’t seem to rely on. After that point, anything- anything they do is futile. They can be nice to you, but then you’d ask yourself, ‘Why so nice?’ Or you can say, ‘Ah so that’s the guilt’, or you can say, ‘Oh good. You little snake. Nothing will work because you should hate yourself ‘. They can cry, they can say sorry, and they can leave. It’s all the same. Go. Leave.

After you’re done telling yourself that you didn’t need them anyway, they had to go, and that s/he deserved it, there will have come a point where you were reminded of the times you had with them. A sadness so unfathomable that no amount of chocolate could help you. This is the funeral of your faith (see how I hate being dramatic). It is not something you can move on from that simply. It is painful.

Being the person on the other side is no party either, let me tell you. If having your trust broken is painful- being the one who broke it in the first place, can be excruciating, once you put an end to the denial- ‘What else could I do?’, ‘I did the right thing for me’, ‘Yes, so I thought about myself for once!’ ‘There’s no need to blow it out of proportion.’ Or ‘Haven’t I said sorry, am I going to be punished for life?’, ‘Hell, it’s not worth it. I’m done. I’m out.

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Once you break someone’s trust, you’ve already done something which is putting everything you have to test. It’s like throwing your relationship, your ideals about yourself, your trust, yes your trust in the other person’s ability to handle it, your courage and your vulnerabilities into the chimney. It’s either charred or it’s nicely roasty, if you salvage it all at the right time.

Wait, is there a possibility that you can get through it? Maybe. Where there’s life there’s hope. Trust is a) like a lot of things in life, a two way street and b) it is a choice. It is slowly and steadily built and it is built by all involved. This blanket will not wrap itself around you, pal. It may be cold outside, and you may want to get warm, really bad. A lot of times trust is like love itself. If you call love unconditional, trust may also have to be classified as absolute, no bullshitting. When you trust somebody you choose to trust them. You don’t trust them thinking that this membership is revoked with one wrong move. If you want out, then you’re still making a choice. If and when your trust is broken, you need to realize that you chose! You did. (And I don’t mean that in a self-blaming it’s-your-fault kind of way) You can, again.

After a point, it is not them who make it difficult for you to trust them, it is you who are not able to.  The act of trusting itself is a reward, not a litmus test. There’s only so much you can do. There’s only so much time you have. If you chose to flavor it with hope and belief then you do that, or you can sit around complaining about the blandness of it all.  Sometimes, we’ve got to pay it forward.