Tag Archives: memory

Everything’s Fine.

 

She sits next to me, staring vexedly at the purple sea. An expression more complex and perplexed than it was meant to be. For the first half an hour, no one talks; the only sounds we hear are the hollow murmurs of evening walks and waves crashing against the rocks under our feet. Then, after an eternity, she turns to me, breathes, and says “You’re the worst friend I’ve ever seen”. This hurts twice as much because deep inside, I agreed.

Soon, she gets to her feet with a swoon. Tears running free, glistening in the light of the moon. Like the salt in the sea breeze was singeing her wounds, she screams– Stop suffering alone. Stop hiding behind closed doors to trick me into leaving or believing that no one’s home, not when I can see you and your mess grieving through the fucking window. Stop telling me you want to make it on your own because you don’t need to. This isn’t the pact of friendship I agreed to, stop defending the pain it takes to keep you because this suffocation is unending and I need to breathe too. Stop leaving me at every turn because by now, I’m lost and blind. I’m tired of the million times you’ve said “everything’s fine” when I can clearly see I’m being lied to. For the sake of three long years of friendship that we’ve both been tied to, tonight, just tonight, I ask for truth.”

An overwhelming urge to purge all my regret is up till here now, but I don’t. I want to justify every action, reaction, every fear now; but I won’t. With a sharpened blade of quiet restraint, I slay every word in my throat as that little voice in my head goes – We don’t speak about our problems at home.

When I was a seven-year-old, my father was fighting a war when he crashed his plane. He jumped out in time, but the forces of nature weren’t kind on the day as he fell to the ground in the most excruciating way imaginable, as bleeding on a shattered spine. Lying and dying in abominable pain, his surgeon told him he’d be lucky if he ever learnt to walk again.

But even when consigned to a wheelchair bereft of the ability to stand, my father would hold take a ball in his hand, repeatedly pick it as his 8-year-old son knocked it back to him in a game of cricket. Come to think of it, 15 years on, I can’t write on a feeling as crippling as staring at the bedroom ceiling or the walls knowing your dreams were reeling and reduced to thoughts no one else would ever know. My father taught me this- we don’t talk about our problems at home.

When I turned 18, my father asked my cancer-stricken mother to choose between a house near the hospital and one near my sister’s school. Despite her weakened defences, the impending pain, the consequences, my mother chose the latter because she could deal with her demons at hand but not with the inconvenience her daughter would feel if we moved during her board exams.

I remember on hour long cab rides back from the hospital after rounds of chemotherapy, I could hear the muffled screams of her agony shake her, on every swerve, every turn, every speed breaker on the road. But for two years,  the only sounds I ever heard were those of silent suffering that torched her, but never a single word to describe the torture or the strain. Never a single complaint about a choice she consciously made on her own. My mother taught me this- we don’t talk about our problems at home.

I want to tell her this, the reason she can’t break my walls. Why every secret is a secret, and why I don’t believe I suffer at all because I have no problems. I’ve been raised by two people who’ve been cursed to go through a whole lot worse through fate’s decisions and they never let me understand what it felt like to nurse such grave incisions.

I want to tell her about the time I broke my shoulder, as I sat on my bed groaning and moaning in pain, my father took one look at me and said “That’s cute; but I fell out of a plane”.

I want to tell her about the mother who never cried because of a terminal disease, but broke down because being in a wheelchair wouldn’t let her cook for her family every eve. My parents taught me this- pain is a very subjective entity when you put the grievances of your loved ones before your own. My parents taught me this- we don’t talk about our problems at home.

But instead of the million words inside my head that I could have said to my friend, I offer her my first line of defence – an apologetic smile. I look at her, hold her hand and say

“Everything’s fine.”

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Spoken Poetry #1 – Dear Mom.

It completely slipped my mind that I should probably put my first Spoken Poetry performance here. I loved every second of that experience; being on stage, taking something so immensely personal and getting the audience to live it with me. So here it is, a letter to someone I miss every single day. Dear Mom, this one is for you.


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.


Little Window.

It was a merciless winter’s night, somewhere in late December I think. I can’t say for sure actually; time has drowned my memories ever so quietly. We must have walked down that lonely, desolate lane to Block D at least a hundred nights now. I’m sure he has done that at least twice as much. Nothing has changed; and yet strangely, everything has.

You see, me and him, we’ve walked these streets so many times that we’ve discovered its most minute intricacies. For instance, I know that seven minutes into our walk, I would hear the sound of gravel crunch beneath my size 9 Woodland shoes, breaking the effortless silence of the night, but not the uneasy one between us two.
The pale, dim yellow streetlights would dully light up the grey tar roads, the bright green benches with paint scraping off along its sides, the only witness to this pilgrimage of sorts.

And yet, in the midst of this monotony, things have changed. Sometimes, a gentle breeze would tug at my baggy shorts and the comfortable, loose fabric of my tee shirt during summers. And at times, the winter wind howled incessantly, a waft of ice cold breath from the Gods would bite at knuckles tightly clasped around my leather jacket. So much change, and yet so familiar.

Anyway, 15 minutes into our walk, I could see the familiar outline of Block D swarm in front of my eyes. The same rundown building that no one bothered to maintain. It looked like something you would find straight out of an archaeology magazine; chipped walls lined with dark green moss, missing bricks and faded paint making it seem like a page from a forgotten memory.

‘I like this place’ he looked at me and whispered in a rough, sombre voice. It was the first time ever that he had spoken to me during our walks. We always talked before or after it, but in those hundred days I walked with him, we never spoke when we were face to face.

‘This building is my reflection, it is what I am, you know? Weathered, broken down, forgotten. But I like it, because despite its shortcomings, it makes no attempt to hide. It still stands.’

I could see he was struggling to speak, but I didn’t ask him why. This was a change from our usually accepted pact of silence, I decided it would be wiser to let destiny do the needful.

We slowly trudged to the side of the building. The low balcony of the first floor stood right in front of us. It was low enough for me to jump and touch, in fact I could climb it if the drainpipe next to it wasn’t ancient. We stopped. Same place, for the umpteenth time. I’ve lost count. He put his hand inside his pocket and pulled out the same old bar of chocolate. I liked this part, and I made a conscious effort not to blink. He looked up at the open window next to the balcony; these were the only few seconds of the day when I saw glimpses of life flood back into his eyes. That made me happy; knowing he hadn’t completely forced himself into emotional exile.

He carefully held the bar of chocolate in his right hand, and arched his back. With the expert precision of someone used to doing something every single day, he threw the chocolate perfectly inside the open window. It was dark and empty inside, yet he stood there transfixed; staring at the open window for at least 5 minutes. It was a simple yet powerfully serene picture that I wish I could paint with words; hope looking up at expectations, in static and unsettling silence.

After 5 minutes of holding his breath, he let out a deep, pained sigh. He looked at me, which was his way of telling me that it was time to walk back.

‘Once every 20, maybe 25 days, when she’s strong enough to stay awake, you can hear the gentle rustle of the wrapper being torn open, I swear. She doesn’t go out much because the chemotherapies have left blotches on her skin, and she has little left of those gleaming strands of silky hair she had before. She says that it all makes her look ugly, but I disagree. What could possibly be more beautiful than someone learning to smile through adversity? Once every one and a half months, when the medicines don’t drain her soul, you can see the faint orange light come on in her room. She puts her head at the window, one of the rare times she ever lets anyone see her. When that little study lamp lights up the side of her face and she holds up the chocolate I threw and she smiles at me? It is all I ever needed.’

I just looked at him and nodded as if I understood. I clearly did not, and imagining the courage it took made me wish I would never have the chance to find out.

‘I told you, I like Block D. The place reminds me of what I have become. All I have left is a little window; but that does not stop me from standing in front of it every night in desperate hope. Everything around me is slowly crumbling, but something inside gives me so much to believe in. I like this monotony. It gives me faith. So I keep coming back, even if it means confronting my worst fears.’

‘And what are those fears?’ I asked him.

He looked at me, and gave me a tired, almost resigned smile.

‘Sometimes, I fear my chocolate will hit a closed window. Sometimes, I fear it’ll drop on an empty bed, and the hollow thump I hear will be nothing compared to the reverberations in my heart. I dread these possibilities. But when I started off doing this, she used to look through the window every 3-4 days. That number has slowly gone on increasing. Now I consider myself fortunate if she manages to hoist her limp, drugged body to the windowsill even once a month. I fear I’m living my darkest fears. Maybe it’s her way of preparing me for the worst, I don’t know. Perhaps I do know, but I do not care. I do what I have to, and nothing less.’

As we talked, we reached Block T, where I stay. We embraced, and he thanked me for coming. Although we did this every night I walked with him, it never felt out of place or cliched. I walked up the stairs to my house, and then into my room, slowly taking in what I had just seen and heard. I had a hard time sleeping that night.

The very next morning, I got a phone call. She had passed away in her sleep.

Even though in one hundred nights I never saw anything beyond the little window, I felt empty, I felt hollow. I could only imagine how standing in his shoes would be, let alone walking in them.

That night, I got no text message from him asking me to come for a walk. But I did see a lonely shadow, dragging a soulless existence through the empty street on the way to Block D. I saw all of it through my balcony. Seven minutes later, I could hear the sound of gravel in my head, heavier and deeper than I had ever heard before. Tonight, hope wouldn’t look up to expectations; expectations would look down upon broken hope. Tonight, there would be no warm embrace, no thank you’s. Perhaps there never will be.

It has been almost a year since her death. I have always wanted to walk to Block D one night and pay my respects. But I can’t. I can’t find the strength to look at him staring at that little window again. I can’t. I can’t imagine his chocolate bouncing off a closed window, I just can’t. I still watch him every night, just walking. I realize now why monotony isn’t redundant; it is beautiful, almost overwhelming. But for it to exist, nothing must change. Which is why I think we all fear change. Maybe that little window will slam shut or what lies inside it will fade. But whatever happens, it is important to keep walking.


Happy Birthday, Mom.

I remember the birthday we spent together three years ago. It must have been a few weeks into your chemo; but the scars of your struggle were now starting to show. For the first time in so many years, you and I didn’t stay up late. For the first time in so many years, there was no childish, excited wait. For the first time in so many years, there was no birthday cake because no matter what you ate at that point in time, your head would spin and nauseate. It felt sad, having to celebrate your liveliness so quietly.

The next morning, I overslept. So when I woke up, the first thing I did was sprint up the steps to your bedroom door. I imagined you would be sleeping so I quietly pushed it open; hoping that I’d be the first face you’d see as you woke up on your special day. But as I stepped into your room, I felt this quiet, impending feeling of gloom. One experienced in the countless hospital trips that conditioned you and I to feel nothing but doom. I saw an empty bed, and a rush of blood to my head said- something’s wrong. I knew you couldn’t even walk straight without me by your side to take your weight. I could feel my hands shake; I could feel the insides of my head ache and throb and about to break. I called out your name, again and again and again and then suddenly, I heard mine in return. A sigh of relief as I immediately turned to where it came from.

As I pushed open the bathroom door, I saw you slouched against the wall, sitting calmly on the floor. Trying to maintain a fine line between livid worrying and escalating dread, I just stood there with a million thoughts inside my head, and you, you just looked at me, and you smiled. Typical of you, you know? Everytime you knew there was tension you couldn’t dilute, you just flashed a smile so adorably cute hoping I would forget. I almost did. But I asked again.

You smiled once more. And then you spoke. In words I wish I remembered, so I could put them in quotes and show the entire world how you saw it with so much hope. You told me how it hurt to be a burden. How on days that hovered between bad and worse you felt like an absolute curse that just refused to go away. You told me how it felt, when you needed me to walk two metres or less, and how it made you feel absolutely helpless, every single day. So on your birthday, you decided to be different.

It hurts my heart to imagine how you swayed across the room to where you fell, but for that one day living in hell made you feel a little more at ease, even if it meant falling to your knees, at least you did it all by yourself. I didn’t know whether to smile or to cry; but these things you said were like invisible forces pulling me from both sides. I heaved you up, and I walked you back to your bed. You were smiling, but your eyes were wet. I tried to give you the warm hug that you’d mastered over the years, one that had so often given my tears a reason to change into something else. If only you knew how much I live that memory, even today.

Three years later, I celebrate your birthday the same way you and I did back then. There is silence, and a quiet birthday wish in this letter; and an empty realization that things could have been so much better. What I miss far outweighs what I have found; but that balance would tilt so drastically if you were around today. Today, I wish I could borrow your shoulders to keep my head; I wish I could kiss your cheeks and tell you everything I never said, instead of writing things you will never read, unless heaven has a speed post service (which it desperately needs.) What I would give, to have you live, not in memories but somewhere real. Every second spent wondering how that would feel suddenly, be worth the time, and the energy.

Anyway, this isn’t about my wishes, its about how hard it is loving you from afar. I only wish I could find the words to define these feelings of mine with a beauty that was half as perfect as you are. I hope you have fun there (for heaven’s sake) and that God employs the best bakery to make your cake. Stay as lively as you’ve always been, remember to lick the icing from the bottom of the cake tin, just how you’ve always liked it.

Down here, Dad will raise a drink and we all will keep you in our prayers and think about the countless reasons you gave us to call happiness our own. We’ll keep missing you, even if we are three parts of a broken mess; and we will love you, alwaysthemore, nevertheless.

I miss you. I love you.

Happy Birthday.

Love,
Shamir.


The Devastated Dreamer.

“I have always been a dreamer, you know? But in a world draped in illusions, I have always tried not to let it show. I think it’s the only place I can be myself anymore; where I can wrap myself in all my fears and firmly lock the door. But I do realize that there are these little windows; some, that inadvertently betray me. Sadistic smiles that grow wider as my memories force me into submission and flay me. I try not to let it break me, but I can’t hold out for long. The world needs to realize this is wrong, and that I’m not strong enough to drag my feet along the lines of sheer agony. This isn’t right. This can’t be right.

As I write this note, I realize I’m the only person who sits alone on in one dark corner on a rusty bench. My classmates all look at me with contorted faces like they inhaled a shitload of stench. It’s hard not to break; it’s harder not to let it take a little part of me away, everyday. But inevitably, it does.

I remember how the boys around me looked at me when I came here first. One by one, they tried their luck as I punctured their bubbles until they burst. Some mistook it for aggression, some mistook it for bitter pride; others said if they looked in my underpants they’d find a dick inside. I didn’t mind. I thought with time it would subside. The voices outside and inside my head have since, never died.

Only if humanity had learnt to empathize a little. Only if it could recognize the irony of a rough exterior protecting something brittle. I had never paid heed to chances: rejected all the advances not to be a holier-than-thou iconoclast, but only because of what I had to go through in the past.

I remember my 7 year old body being overpowered. I remember watching him standing over me as I cowered; pleading with him not to rape me. I remember screaming until I wanted to bleed to death, I remember wanting to drain myself of every last breath until I begged to God himself to take me. That pain. Never again.

Since then I have tried to build my defences for an eternity. I have locked myself inside and wallowed in self pity. No one will understand the rage I feel, or how it feels like to never heal. No one will feel the goosebumps on my skin, or feel the blood in my body boil from within when anyone mentions the mere concept of intimacy. All I do is close my eyes, take my mind back to that time; for the wounds to open, and for my hate to push me into overdrive. If only you could taste this hate.

So as I write this, I maintain that I still like to dream. It is what I am, it is what I’ve always been. Call me ignorant, call me a lesbian cunt, call me something sharp, call me something blunt; but that will never change the sheer brunt that I carry on my shoulders. I could lift one shirt sleeve up far and show you the ugly marks and the scars, the reminders of a dark and distant past, but I wont. Your simple, plain lives will never grasp the essence of something so animalistic, so gory. And to think everything around me would have been so different had people only asked me for my story. But if you can’t understand devastation and its themes, I suggest you leave, and leave me to my self and my devastated dreams. I have illusions to break, I have delusions to chase, I have memories to confront, I have nightmares to face. I promised myself I wouldn’t whine, I wouldn’t moan; but just sometimes I can’t do this alone. I hope sometimes that people would be different instead of being indifferent. Is that too much to ask for?

Until that happens, I’ll choose to live a little like this. In a world where silence is my sanctum and ignorance is bliss. My demons can pummel me into living hell with an iron fist, but with a cold heart and steely nerves I can resist and nurse these wounds that hell has kissed. And I swear to every single one of you that nothing will be missed; all I ask, is that you let me dream.”