Friday, January 01, 2010

Here's Looking At You Kid...

In the beginning it was difficult to believe. As a kid, as a teenager even (and don't tell anyone, sometimes, even now), I was always the sort who lacked confidence, the sort who was so self-conscious that most of her conversations happened in her head. But here was this boy, who refused to get offended by my feeble attempts at being social, and worse perhaps, refused to let anybody else around us be offended by it too. For the first time in my life I began having friends, having a "group" of own, and slowly, in fits and starts the confidence seeped in.

I have never quite gotten over the wonder of those years, definitely never over that small boy who wouldn't take no for an answer. I have never actually had the opportunity to get over it because he never changed, never became someone I didn't know, or worse, someone I knew a long time back. I forget to reply to his mails, we don't talk much anymore, sometimes, I don't even have his changing cell numbers on me, but we don't drift apart. Maybe because he doesn't lose patience. Maybe because I know he won't. I really don't know why. I don't think I'll ever know it too...I just know he is special, and that he is one of a kind.

Your mother now, she is a livewire if ever there was one. From the way she always, ALWAYS managed to come late to class, rushing in like a whirlwind, her hair all over her face, cutting the teacher's rebuke short with a flurry of excuses and apologies, to how she insisted on having her tiffin after the very first class was over, from the way she never shied off from blowing someone to smithereens over any seeming injustice to her fierce sense of independence-- she was always the firebrand. She still is. I have spent days with her being cynical, being weepy, laughing like crazy, sulking in fits, being angry, being happy, sharing secrets, crushes, jokes, joys and hurt. She can be brusque, oh yes, she can really give it to you, as I am sure you'll find out when you start growing up and trying her patience, but she can also put you together when you are nursing a hurt, or even a cold-- put your topsy-turvy mind in place with inane jokes, her loud laughter and her huge grin. I bet you won't be able to get over that. Ever.

This evening when I called her to wish her on new year, I was a little taken aback. She sounded like she was sleeping. But then she became her usual self. Well, almost. Her voice was a laboured whisper, the strain of the operation has hardly subsided, but she told me all about you, told me how you have been howling a lot, how you've become red in the face with the effort, how you are so fair...

...Your dad had much the same things to say. But I wasn't really listening to him. I was listening to the joy in his voice, the slight bewilderment, and the surprise in it...I can't tell you how happy it made me to talk to them both...

I don't know which of them you look like, and I'll be honest with you, I particularly don't care. But if there's one thing I can wish for you, it's for you to have a heart like your father and grit like your mom. Life will give you the rest.

And from me, love always and forever. You are a part of two people who are very, very special to me.

Welcome to this world, kid...

(To Sunny and Gruff's daughter, who came in to our lives today)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


Golper moto ishkool bari,
jome otha khhoto, khelbo na aari.
She khela kana goli roj chupishare
Ebong agoon chhilo last counter-er
Haway haway

Bondhu tomay e gaan shonabo bikel belay,
Arekbaar jodi tomader dole nao khelay....

Chandrabindoo. Album: Gadha


Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I think I was in the second standard when I first had malaria. I was a sickly child in my early years, and bouts of fever, a runny nose and sore throat were nothing out of the ordinary. Yet it's funny how my earliest recollection of being unwell dates back to the time when malaria got to me. I still remember lying in bed, almost delirious, trying to catch a glimpse of the sun through the window, scanning faces anxiously, waiting for Baba to come back from work, a bar of Five Star in hand, my salvation after all the bitter pills through the day.

If the days still had their moments of deliverance, it was the nights I used to be terrified of. As the fever wracked my body, I would desperately try and put my mind to other things, people I loved, books I'd been reading, my bundles of Enid Blyton and Shukhalata Rao, Abon Thakur and E Nesbit. I was reading What Katy Did at that time, poised at the juncture when Katy had just suffered a stupendous fall from the swing and doctors didn't know if she would ever be able to walk again. I felt an odd kinship with her, devouring the book, whenever I was slightly better. Ma says she had to nudge me awake in the middle of the night, because I would be talking to Katy in my sleep, urging her to please ask for her poor aunt, because she was dying, and oh, she really was a good soul, even though she thought she was too strict for words! Death, at that age, was still a mystery, but of course, you knew, with the instinct of a child, it was inscrutable and irreversible.

So, why am I talking of morbid things which are long in the past? Because everytime illness strikes, as it has been with pretty severe regularity of late, I am back to being that terrified kid waiting for morning to come. I lust for all the sounds, the colours, the chaos, the people who make up my everyday life, and when I don't get it, for whatever reason, I behave like that five-and-a-half-year-old again, terrified of further suffering, terrified that this condition, which I had presumed to be temporary to begin with, might indeed become my life.

It wasn't like this in the intervening years but. Youth has its own mechanism of dealing with fears, or rather, death does not feature in their agenda at all. There's impatience, yes, and just a plenitude of life that sees you through even your darkest hour. I am young still, but hardly an youth, and suddenly illness and death have far more profound implications for me. I don't always react sensibly to it. Like I told you, I am more prone to tears and fear if it lasts for anything beyond the ordinary.

But when those moments pass and sanity returns, it makes me think of a whole lot of people who have suffered more and with greater fortitude-- my Thamma, otherwise given to hyperboles, never complained of pain ever in the near-three years she was laid up in bed, needing dyalisis four times a day, dependent on the mercy of others for even the most basic of human needs. At the most, if you probed her again and again, she would say, there was a mild discomfort, my same old grandmother, who was the mistress of the house till illness felled her, for whom nothing but the best would do. It was only the night time that used to scare her. She couldn't get used to the darkness outside and the stillness within. She would keep asking the attendants the time, keep waking them up to get her a cup of tea, not because she would drink it, but because it meant, even in that state, that the familiarity of her world was still there. My grandfather too had never flinched, not when he suffered the first heart attack when I was in Class III, not when he landed up with a fractured skull while trying to avoid a speeding car, and least of all, during that final year, when the callousness of hospital authorities left him battling with pneumonia and a multiple organ injury.

There are so many others to this list. An aunt who recently gave up the battle against cancer, a cousin, to the same. Each fought with grace and courage. What gave them the strength, I wonder? Why did they not chafe and cry and lose hope like I do? When each day is actually better than the previous? Why am I suddenly such a poor learner?

It's just been five days so far...


Monday, March 09, 2009

On The Road

Anecdote 1

It was a weekend and an early morning flight. I was en route to a friend's wedding. As I queued up at the check-in desk, still sore at having to let go off my weekend snooze, a man sidled up at the counter, slightly unsure, but without bothering to go through the queue. Different cities do different things to you. My home city taught me to be patient and timid, kind but not very self-confident. My adopted city though has ensured I am full of the same bristling restlessness that takes you through days when politeness and patience don't work. The sight of the man jumping the queue raised my hackles immediately, in exactly the same way as it does every day in this city, a dozen times a day actually, dealing with people either too full of themselves or too insolent to care (Maybe the two states are synonymous?). As the conversation at the counter dragged on, I fidgeted and made snide remarks to A, insisting that I go up to the counter and tick the man off. I had been at it for a while, when A, exasperated, pointed out a tiny pin on the man's shirt, which I had failed to see. It had a single word on it: blind, and suddenly, in that fraction of a second, the wind was completely knocked out of me.

There are things one is afraid of in life. I am scared of blindness, both physical and metaphysical, and the implications of it, not just in my life, but in the lives of those whom I cherish the most. To see this man-- non-descript and averagely dressed, but with enough confidence to make him an equal in an unyielding world--brought back images of another man doing the same, in a faraway hinterland, slightly better than him, but struggling nonetheless to hold on to the legacy of sight...Who knows whether some insensitive individual mistakes his valiance for faults unknown, just like his daughter did to some other man?

Anecdote 2

In a tiny city in western Europe, against an overwhelming cathedral an old lady in a wheelchair sits alone staring in to the distance. Her face is wrinkled, but not sad. If you take the time to look, there's a twinkle in her eyes that belies the fact that the half cents that you drop in to her lap would probably go a long way in getting her a meal. Two kids on their way out of the church, stop to speak to her, their father standing in the distance, smiling indulgently at them. The old lady's face lights up and it's a pretty picture as the three of them chat animatedly. The lady's still smiling when the children wave goodbye and move away. It's evening almost and the daytrippers are on their way out of the city. As she sits there counting her day's earning, the setting sun rests on her face for just an instant. Age can be cruel, loneliness crueller...


Thursday, January 22, 2009

I'm not quite local, not quite a stranger. I'm either a local stranger or a strange local

I am going through a particularly hedonistic phase in my life. No, make that mental frame of mind. Right now, all I crave for is comfort, beauty, luxury, greater materialistic gain...the total works. It's like running through a fashion magazine catalogue, ticking the dresses that you want and wondering if it will make you look just as pretty and perfect as the models sporting them, do.

The ground reality is slightly removed though. There's comfort and beauty, but not quite in the same way. There's comfort, because everyday, when I go home, to the house that we have both so lovingly done up, it's like being back to my own space. It's my nook, my corner, and in a strange way, I never thought possible of me, my world too. I don't mind at all, for days altogether, to stay at home, pottering around, reading, listening to music, or just doing nothing. There's beauty in being reminded everyday that I belong, and that I am cherished, something which fills me with wonder every single day, even now.

So why, when I am so happy, am I craving hedonism? A friend of mine, quite given to living life on his own terms, has this to say. "Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather, to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand, martini in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, woo hoo, what a ride!"

I am not that adventurous yet, but I suspect, it's got something to do with the thought at the back of my mind that time's running out. I am in my late twenties, and there's this feeling somewhere that I haven't done enough so far. There's this whole new world out there, waiting to be explored, waiting to be touched in to life, and I am doing nothing to make it happen. I am stuck in a professional status quo, boring, but comfortable, and I make no effort to change it or better it. I am coasting through life, superficially most of the times, in pursuit of the fruits of here and now, not knowing when to stop or where, all the time looking for a cure to my restlessness, in places where I know they don't exist. People have been suggesting motherhood, but I am not sure if I am prepared for that either, yet. I feel flustered sometimes, not just at the lack, but at my failure to do something about it.

And so till I find my way, it's the catalogues I am looking to live my life in. Hoping the labels fill fit. Or I'll grow out of them.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Do you feel like I do?

Ri... died on the 26th. Four days after she was born. Three days after she was detected with an under-developed heart and dysfunctional lungs. I did not have the chance to meet her. My only acquaintance with her was through the joy in her father's voice the evening she was born, ringing out over the telephone with wonder and awe, and what seemed suspiciously like love.

What do you make of life?


I am living in the extremes these days, dithering between nervous anxiety and bouts of happiness. It's a strange reality really, considering that life has been good to me on the whole. But there are catches here and there, niggling little stabs that punctuate my equanimity. They are not insurmountable, maybe they will be positive even, but they are bogging me down right now. I have been wishing that I had done things differently, planned and organised my life better. Wishful thinking that fuels the sense of under-achievement. But then, when I go home every evening, and I see A, comforting and protective, I am filled with thankfulness and gratitude that I have him to fall back upon. When I talk to friends and family, I know my blessings and feel the warmth inside.

What do I make of life then?


If I can let you go as trees let go their leaves, so casually, one by one; If I can come to know what they do know, That fall is the release, the consummation, Then fear of time and the uncertain fruit Would not distemper the great lucid skies. This strangest autumn, mellow and acute.


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

In Retrospect

Two deaths. A wedding.
An old address. A new home.

New routes. Old tales.
Pockmarks of jealousy; unease.

Illness, wellness.
Hopelessness. Happiness
and I-miss-you-so days.

Life paused today to say,
I am glad I was there with you every step of the way.