Tag Archives: Family

To The Girl Who Must Go On.

To the girl who must go on,

In the great wilderness of the world, you and I are trees. Strong stems, different leaves; but trees all the same. From time to time I part my branches and look at you, standing there magnificently, through rain, hail, snow, disease and I wonder, how can she go on so effortlessly? Even through forest fires which burn down everything we’ve ever tried to be, you have been scarred but not mutated, charred but not obliterated; and in that moment this little sapling next to you knew what he wants to be.

To the girl who must go on,

This is not a plea. This could be the first thing you want, or the last thing you need, but please do know that this comes from somewhere deep inside of me. Call it experience or label it compassion, but writing a letter has never gone out of fashion for someone who perpetually lives his present in the past. I know you do too, so maybe this is something you will relate to and hold on to, steadfast. I just hope it lasts for as long as I want it to.

It was a warm afternoon in a month I don’t remember. Oddly, it felt warmer inside the air-conditioned room than it did outside in the blistering heat. I sat opposite a middle-aged, bespectacled man; my mother sat next to me. She was wearing a scarf around her head, one to cover the bare skin where luscious tufts of jet black hair had fallen away after chemotherapy. She looked beautiful though, she always did when she was happy. She’d been cancer free for a couple of months, and all the right changes were there to see. Reinvigorated melanin, a radiant glow that stemmed from somewhere within and how nice her eyes looked without dark circles etching themselves into her skin, it made her look alive to me. But as always is the case with moments of peace, rediscovery is often rudely redefined by reality.

“Your cancer is back again”.

That day, I learnt a few things I will never forget. After I thanked the doctor for wrecking our world with a travesty, I looked at my mother and did something I was constantly guilty of doing. I lied to her. Promises like “It’s just a minor thing” or “It’ll be over before you know it” sounded hollow even in my own head. Maybe that’s why thoughts with empty intentions tend to echo inside your head for an eternity. When she looked at me and offered a weak smile, I just knew she didn’t believe me. Why would she, when I didn’t believe myself?

I could have started this letter by lying to you, but I won’t. You’ll probably see through it too. Maybe adversity makes some blind and for others it makes things easier to see through. But either way, I want to make you believe. I have seen my mother do everything that you’re enduring now; I have broken down while cleaning washbasins stained with vomit and blood, asking myself “Where do we go from here?” Maybe you ask yourself that too. But there are some situations which are best left away from the truth. Somewhere I believe that facts are hidden from us because we’d give up if we knew what was in store. Uncertainty is good, it gives you a chance to fight towards a door without ever knowing whether you’ll get there or if it’ll open.  All that matters, is that there is a door. But if you give up now, I promise you’ll never get there.

Anyway, over the next few weeks I saw and felt what relapse did to people. Why alcoholics, drug addicts, chain smokers find it difficult to deal with withdrawal, and why hopes of a rehabilitated future promised little respite in a present that refused to get better. I couldn’t and didn’t even want to imagine what my mother felt. The light at the end of our tunnel was a train. The silver linings to our clouds were the angry glimmer of thunderstorms and rain and sometimes it felt like the forces, natural and supernatural, conspired against us. But in those broken bits we could never put back together, we learnt to live little by little. That is all I ask of you.

Even though the cancer’s back, know that it returns only after losing to you. Against the winds of adversity, you’re a tree that stands tall in its wake, and even if you are about to bend or break your roots have dug far too deep for you to be uprooted or destroyed completely. Maybe that’s why the strongest parts to you are the ones you couldn’t see.

So today, no lies from me. Take it from someone who’s done it before and regrets having the audacity to look into the eyes of the most important part of himself to say that she was meant to stay and not to leave. Maybe you’ll shake and maybe you’ll sway, but those roots of yours have seen and felt all that you feel again today. Hold on, and let the storms pass. Tomorrow, when you outlast it again, and stretch your vast arms towards the sky, I will stand under your shade and thank the heavens and so will a million others who will have learnt how to stand with the best, and withstand the worst.

To the girl who must go on, the world will need your seeds.

 

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Empty.

I do this once, maybe twice a year, and it makes it all the more difficult to write this. I hold on to 364 days worth of memories and regrets, only to struggle with myself on your birthday. On the first of October every year, I take something from the empty space inside and try my best to cram it into an empty one outside. There are just too many memories to choose from, ones I recall like it were only yesterday.

Yes, I remember putting a hand on my zip and dancing like a second-hand Michael Jackson for you when you were on your wheelchair. I also remember how you spilled filter coffee on a pristine white bed-sheet of your hospital bed, and the nurse gave you a look like you had murdered her family or something. I still remember laughing until my eyes watered.

I also remember not-so-happy things; fighting with you and telling you I wouldn’t talk to you until you ate, didn’t matter if the cancer made you nauseous. I remember carrying you to the bathroom in the middle of the night as you winced in pain. Things that I try not to think of, but still a part of the limited time we spent and loved together.

So today, as I write this, everything just comes flooding back. It happens everyday, but just that little bit more today. Happens when we cut your birthday cake without you; it happens when we eat a dinner dedicated to you with one empty chair at the table. But it also reminds me how lucky I have been, and how much I’ve learnt and continue to learn from you. It also keeps my feet on the ground; the standards you’ve set for perfection are so far and distant that it drives me on even more to keep your legacy alive. You live through me and I know I might never get there, but I promise to try and show the world who you really were.

I love you, you beautiful, beautiful person. I miss sitting on your bed, staring into the same eyes you gave me and talking to you.
Happy birthday, I miss you. Thank you for everything I am today.


How I Found Home Again.

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I had never felt so uncomfortable in a place that I had come to call my second home. The small, muddy ground with two rusty goalposts at each end had always been reassuringly familiar to me; but not on that one night. Over the past year, I had covered every inch of the ground more than a thousand times; right from the first day of college to the last day of the university team trials. I loved the ground so much that my once gleaming, white Star Impact Spectras were now permanently coated with a dull brown tinge that so often ended up on my shirts after rough falls. My legs had almost memorized the physical attributes of the turf; how the far left corner was slightly elevated and how a little patch halfway up the ground was particularly hard to sprint on. I can embarrassingly admit, I didn’t even know my girlfriend as intimately as I knew about the little, muddy pitch in the centre of my college.

When Mom’s cancer happened, I was forced to see two of my most cherished things in the world spiral towards unimaginable predicaments. With Mom’s steadily deteriorating health, I was slowly starting to spend more and more time away from the little field I used to practice in. I sorely missed what it once made me feel – the thrills of exquisitely timed sliding tackles, the earthy aroma of petrichor during rainy football sessions, the joys of the wind beating against my chest while sprinting; the sheer nostalgia of memories was overwhelming. Those poignant shards of a shattered imagination were now replaced with far graver memories.

On that night, I stood once again on the same ground after God knew how much time. The sound of gravel scrunching beneath my shoes felt like listening to a song that I had long forgotten, but one that I suddenly rediscovered on the radio. I could hear the crowd roaring and the bright floodlights illuminating the field radiantly, lending its brown colour an alluring, lustrous glow which I think it always deserved. I had been there so many times before; soaking in the pressure, the crippling expectations and the electric atmosphere. But that night was different. It was strange for me, this feeling. I had built my footballing reputation on being a calm central midfielder who feared little. But on that night, I felt nervous and uneasily anxious. The worst thing was that I was fully aware of why it was happening.

I didn’t look on my right-hand side because I knew she was watching me. I also knew she understood little about the game; had no clue about the intricate tactics, the industrious endeavor and the orchestrated teamwork it required to assert one team’s supremacy over the other. All I knew was that I would mean the same to her on the pitch as I did off it. She cared little about my team or the opposition’s, she was only going to watch me and be oblivious to the rest of the world. In 18 years of my life out of which I had spent 10 playing the beautiful game, this was the first time that she had come to watch me play. That night, I wanted to give her something to smile about after what had been a tumultuous few months for all of us.

I still remember how it felt the same way like my first match did. My legs felt like jelly, my stomach had turned so violently that it felt like someone had tied my guts into a scout’s knot. I couldn’t focus, I was sweating and the game hadn’t even begun. Trust me, there is nothing worse than sudden self-doubt on the big stage; that one moment when you completely forget your very purpose of existing. That horror of letting everything unravel when it matters to most was terrifying to me.

When I heard the whistle, it took me a few seconds to register that the game had kicked off. It was like the world had dropped its burdens on my shoulders, but I told myself that nothing mattered more to me than the lady who got up from a hospital bed after a chemotherapy to watch her son do what he loved. I wasn’t going to let her down, I knew I wouldn’t forgive myself if I did. Failure was unacceptable on any night; but tonight it was simply unthinkable. I had no way of knowing if she would ever watch me play again, so I knew had to make this one performance count.

Over the course of the next 20 minutes, I played like a man possessed. I dived recklessly into tackles, ran twice as hard as the man I was supposed to mark, and constantly told myself that this was just another game. I don’t think my body was listening. By halftime I looked like I had taken a momentary dip in the college’s heritage well; my head was aching with the lack of composure that usually regulated my body’s physical output. It was then that I realized what my fear truly meant. And for the first time since the match started, I smiled.

I realized that I felt different because that night, I wasn’t playing for myself anymore. I was playing for someone else, someone far more important. None of the hundreds in the crowd had ever seen what it took me to become the footballer I was, but the lady smiling quietly at one dark corner of the field certainly had. She had seen me caked in mud and exhausted from training camps, she had seen me in hospitals with sprained ankles and torn muscles, she had seen me distraught after defeat. She had witnessed and understood the true aspects of my art and my worth as an artist, which is why on that night, the weight of expectations felt heavier than it ever did before.

Before the second half began, I went up to her and talked to her. My heart felt lighter knowing that today, all I had to do to make her proud was just to be myself. Just like how I was the centre of her universe, she was all that mattered tonight and nothing else came remotely close. Win, draw or lose, it didn’t matter anymore; just knowing that she was watching me was all I could be grateful for.

I played the rest of the game with a heart that knew, for the first time that night, just what it had to do. I ran my socks off in the second half and also scored a goal that I still regard as the best of my life, considering who I owed it to. We drew the game 2-2, but the disappointment of the draw didn’t wipe the smile off my face for the whole night. The ground felt familiar once more, and I smiled again. She looked at me, she smiled too; and in that moment, I found my home again.

Lethal Addictions.

I have been in a complicated relationship for a while now, and it is starting to devour me as time crawls by. I know you want to ask why; so tonight I’ll give my sorrows the vent they always needed. Tonight, you will know all the concerns that went unheeded. I no longer want my silence to be treated like dirt; just because I kept quiet does not mean it did not hurt. 

For the last three years that I have been with you, for you, around you, I went out of my way to be the person I thought you’d love more than anything else, every single day. I have tried even harder since the very first day you lost your heart, and I did my best to clean your mess despite not knowing where to start. I knew that you would never be the same again, probably never find the will to love through pain; but I burnt myself to the ground to make sure that you’d have at least one reason to change that. Clearly, it wasn’t enough. Or maybe, I wasn’t enough. I was never the kind to openly acknowledge this feeling of jealousy, of envy, that is now a part of me, but what she does to you leaves me wondering if I ever made a difference to the indifference with which you treat your pain.  

She makes you feel the way I could never do, the exact same way I always wanted to. I envy the care with which your fingers caress her lengths. I despise the nights you spend tasting nothing but her essence, breathing her in, leading her in to your deepest, darkest corners. She wanders through places where I’ve always wanted to go, exploring dormant reasons I’ve always been dying to know. I always wished I could be something like that, who you could turn to, but somewhere fate and your actions convinced me that I wasn’t supposed to.

Yes, it breaks me. Sometimes I can’t understand why I’m so angry, but I’ve started to realize it is only because you make me. She isn’t good for you, I am. I am not like she is; a temporary pleasure, a desperate measure stemming from unwarranted pressure. I love you and take nothing in return. I just wish you’d drop the cigarettes Dad, before she truly starts to burn.

Why don’t you understand that I haven’t been oblivious to all the signs that I’ve seen- crushed empty packs under the bed, the bathroom smelling of nicotine? When will you understand that white smoke does nothing to fill black holes, or that smoking kills 5 million callous souls, every single year? How do you not expect me to be overwhelmed? What if in the next five million, you’re one of them? 

I have already lost one parent to cancer, you know it better than I do. Yet you embrace an element that causes the same travesty, that took your wife, your life, away from you. I can’t rewrite your past but I can dictate where your future lies, and that future lies with two kids who hold you as the biggest inspiration in their eyes. So, close this chapter, label it fiction; start a new book far away from your lethal addiction. Convince me that this complicated relationship will get somewhere better. Because I certainly won’t run out after a pack, or fade into the night sky in seconds; I won’t strangulate you slowly as time beckons. The only similarity I have with your cigarettes is that I will love you until I burn to ashes. And you know what? I’ll love you even after that.
I know she keeps you company, but you need to know one simple rule. The human body was never meant to inhale fire, only because it runs on fuel. Your head rushes with emotions and memories, mine does too. But my love transcends the smoke you breathe to keep your sanity next to you. 

So this Father’s Day, I hope that my gift to you, is also your gift to mine. I hope you understand that I’d do anything it takes to make sure you’re fine. You’ve always been there for me, now this is my turn. So please drop those cigarettes Dad, before they truly start to burn.