Tag Archives: personal

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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Suicide Note.

One night, her words won’t rhyme.
Her verses will die a slow death,
a little at a time,
mocking every memory she wrote.
On that night, your poetry will write
herself a suicide note-
broken, baffled, bereft of hope,
wishing, she could feel
a little less empty,
and a little bit more.
On that night, kiss your poetry to sleep,
tear her note to shreds, give her a shoulder
on which to weep,
tell her that you believe, in her stead;
and in the simple fact that poetry
can never truly be dead.
Tell her, that you believe in her,
and in tomorrow, a time
when she’ll turn her sorrow
into the most beautiful thing the world has ever read.
Watch over her, until she rips apart
her suicide note from end to end.
Then pray, that on nights like these,
she learns to write something better instead.


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.

 


What Japanese Women Taught Me About Love.

When the cold and pristine winter air first kissed my face as I got off the plane at Narita Airport, Japan, I opened my mind to a world full of infinite discoveries. I’ll be honest, there are certain concepts and elements I am yet to fully grasp as a writer; Love is one of them. I was hoping Japan would help me understand it a little better.

On the 8th day of my Japan expedition, a tiny house in one corner of Saiki Bay made a few revelations. I finally fell in love again, and I’m pretty sure I understand it a little better. So here’s what Japanese women taught me about love.

Who are you really? (Himino-chan, age 6)

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– Every relationship starts with a conversation, if not, at least with a feeble attempt at one. However, from time to time you’ll come across a woman who speaks a different language. She probably won’t share your obsession of sipping freshly ground coffee from your favourite mug. Maybe she swears by the subtleties of white chocolate while you choose the intoxicating allures of bitter dark ones; it doesn’t matter. Words are lost in translation, emotions are not. Deciphering her tongue takes exhaustive efforts; she’s met many who speak the same language but still never really understood her. She could speak Japanese for all I care; but does that mask the honesty inside her every time she starts to speak?

– Learn to intrigue every little part of her imagination to the point where it bursts at the seams. Don’t do the same magic trick over and over. You might have the upper hand now, but someday she will learn to play her cards better, or worse, learn to read yours. Be unpredictable. Don’t pull out a rabbit from your hat, pull out a cat; maybe it’ll claw at your fingers and embarrass you completely but your misery will be worth her laugh. The day magic stands still, the world will think it’s a trick; for it to remain a beautiful illusion it must be rethought, reconsidered and reinvented for what it is.

– Learn to forget yourself around her. You’re not 22. You aren’t someone who has seen more or less of the world than she has. You’re never too mature or too naive. So every time she tries to discover you, learn to blur your lines. For you to win her over, you must make yourself vulnerable to her first. Remember, no conquests were made from staying under defensive cover.

– Make a conscious effort to give her choices a chance. Don’t you already know most of what you love and prefer? Maybe it’s time for you to indulge in things that have always differed from what you’ve loved. Maybe she thinks fish tastes better fried than when it’s poached. Maybe she thinks an accompaniment of seaweed is more digestible than a helping of sautéed onions. It never hurts to try the things she loves. After all, you’re one of those things, aren’t you?

The things I never say (Tsubaki Chan, age 3)

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– When she looks at you for the first time, do not mistake her quiet, piercing gaze for aggression. Some women measure your worth before they grant you the privilege of a conversation.

– When she finally acknowledges that you exist, make every little gesture to tell her that you care what she talks about who she is. If she’s 3 feet tall and you’re 5’7, don’t let her crane her neck when she speaks. Don’t be distant. Don’t be out of reach. Instead, go down to your knees and look into her eyes when she talks. Her voice will be warm. Her smile will be warmer. You can tell by the tinge of pink that spreads itself across her rosy cheeks.

– When she pulls you by your hand (or even wraps three-year-old fingers around your solitary index finger), don’t stop to question her intentions. Let her lead you wherever she pleases. Live the quivering excitement in her voice with her, watch her eyes grow wide in anticipation when she opens the surprises she keeps giftwrapped inside her mind. She wants you to be a part of her wonderment, her emotions, her universe. Why would you even refuse?

– One day, she’ll let out slivers of thoughts you won’t be able to grasp. She’ll say words with a weight you cannot comprehend, or maybe she’ll just sit across you and break down into quite sobs from beginning to end. At times like these, let her know that you’re listening and hanging onto every thing she spills. A gentle nod, a reassuring nudge, an encouraging word; little gestures to remind her that everything she said is heard. She could speak in rapid Japanese for all you know; in the end, what you sense matters more than what you take in.

– When it is time to say goodbye, give her something to remember you by. Embrace her, leave her with a little kiss; like you want the warmth on your finger tips and your skin to fill her empty depths with happiness. When people leave, all that is left is memories; so give her one that she can go back to time and over. Be the book she never gets bored of reading, be the song she replays in her head when she’s breathing in emptiness; when she needs something to remind of reasons to keep existing. That way, if you find yourself living a day when you have to leave without knowing when you’ll return, at least you’ll say good bye knowing you did everything to be a part of something she’ll cherish all her life. She’ll grow old, she’ll grow up with them; one day when she gets to where she wants, she will remember you.


The Power of Silence.

I stepped out of the crowded train, grumbling under my breath. The night air a peculiar mix of petrichor and a stench of sweat. I whipped my bag off, it was soaking wet, trying to find the umbrella that I usually kept. I searched frantically but couldn’t find it. Before I even opened the other compartment I was rudely reminded; my sister had taken it just this morning, the anger I felt was blinding.

The drizzle turned to torrential rain, lashing against the metallic shelter; under which crowds of frantic people were now running helter-skelter. I went down the stairs and took a right, as my path opened into the night; I stood just away from the grasp of the wet ground, waiting for the rain to subside. I cursed at sour lady luck, repeatedly used an expletive that rhymed with “truck”, wishing tonight had been a little different and I wasn’t here, cranky and stuck.

As I stood there with a blank stare, muttering quietly in despair, I suddenly smelt a delicious fragrance diffused into the damp air. I looked around like a wide-eyed owl, with a confused expression and a curious scowl, and as I spotted the little sandwich shop, my stomach let out an angry growl. I sprinted towards the store my heart in a little flutter, the aroma of grilled cheese and burnt butter on the side of crusty bread was making my mouth water. Two minutes after that, I stood with two grilled sandwiches in my hand, happy that this night was finally doing something except wanting to get me mad.

Fatigued and famished from all that waiting, I was salivating as I moved in for the first bite. But then I saw something else in the night that made me stop before I could eat. In a dark corner across the street, sat a man alone, on the stone pavement just a few feet away from where I stood. He sat still with closed eyes, arms raised to the open skies, his lips moving in quiet prayer for the Gods that I couldn’t see. His clothes were riddled with gaping holes, so were his shoes with torn soles; he shivered involuntarily every time a raindrop kissed his skin with jarring cold.

I covered one sandwich with a paper plate, hoping to preserve it from the rain, as I walked carefully in his direction I could see and feel his sorry state. As I stood before him, I could hear his breathing; rugged and heavy, the words receding, fading into the sound of raindrops crashing against everything. I tapped his shoulder and he opened his eyes, registering a look of sudden surprise. I lowered the plate and he lowered his arms, his eyes dropped their gaze from the skies.

When he spotted the food, a giant plateful, he looked at the heavens and prayed, immensely grateful. He gazed at me then, all the while, his lips stretching into a smile as I looked at him and returned the gesture. I stood over him and watched him eating, savoring every tiny bite even with the rain beating furiously against his skin. The sight made my heart melt so fast, I opened my sandwich and sat next to him.

For the next 15 minutes two strangers sat; with a pact of silence, both soaked and damp. Words unspoken, the quiet unbroken, yet one of the best conversations I’ve ever had. After I finished my treat, I got off my seat and smiled at him one last time. I turned around, without a sound, and quietly walked off into the night. A heart uplifted with new found hope, body and soul thoroughly soaked, I looked back at what I’d left, and I saw him embracing his torn, old cloak. Before he faded into the dark, I saw him slowly lifting his arms; the inaudible prayer resumed in all its glory-probably tranquil whispers of our story. He sat still again in pious defiance, amid the thundering of nature’s violence; I looked up and prayed for him, hoping the Gods could hear the power of silence.


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.


Rings of Smoke.

I was 7 when I saw you for the very first time, blowing rings of smoke into the air,
I mustered enough courage to tell you to stop, only because I genuinely cared.
But all you did was you ruffled my hair, said “Just one last time, I’ll finish it fast!”
One hour I waited as the entire packet ran out, and the cigarette butts littered the grass.

At 16, I came home from college one night, saw you standing at the frame of the door,
The stench of tobacco and traces of ash, enraged every part of me to my core.
I shouted, I screamed, about the fears in my dreams, wondering what would convince you to drop it.
But all you did was you ruffled my hair, and said “Just one last time and then I’ll stop it.”

At 21, when Mom left us all for good, I saw you crying and slowly breaking apart,
Breathing in wisps from a million smokes, hoping it would help fill the hole in your heart.
I begged, I pleaded, told you this was not what you needed, desperate to turn you into a new leaf,
“Just one last time” you said once again, “I need it to keep me from drowning in grief.”

From that time on, not a day went by, that you tried to stick to the promises you’d made,
I constantly reminded, that the smoke had you blinded, to your health which had started to degrade.
Then came a point when I had to accept, that nothing could change how things were,
My words to you, were like the smoke you blew, they swiftly vanished into thin air.

So I decided to keep absolutely quiet, never to give you a warning in the coming years,
Why should I waste my breath to save yours, when I saw it all falling on deaf ears?
Not that you seemed to care anyway, one cigarette lead to the next like a trigger,
I sat and watched in painful silence, as the heap of burnt matches and smokes grew bigger.

Now that I stand over your hospital bed, in silence broken only by the ECG’s noise,
Your million cigarettes burning a hole in my heart, knowing I said nothing when I had the choice.
Now the cancer works its way through your lungs, and I can do nothing at all but squirm,
Realizing that through the years by gone, all I needed to do was be a little more firm.

Then you opened your eyes and looked at me, we both didn’t know what to say,
Both of us knew that if we’d played our parts, things wouldn’t have ended this way.
It was far too late to see things now, through the smoke that made our lives gray,
“Just one last time” you managed to say, and then like the rings of smoke faded away.