Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Happy Birthday T...a

What could make a great gift for you? That's a tough one and the pressure gets compounded by the fact that it's your birthday. This is your first birthday after our marriage and I want to make it special for you. I have been searching online for an unusual gift, something other than normal, like you. And then I came across this cute (I know you like cute things) and unusual looking jar, a solar sun jar, which the seller declared was more magical than it seemed, and I again thought about you, and he even tried selling me the idea of it being a time machine. The idea was farfetched and I never thought too much into it but surely the jar was cute and I was praying that you would like it.

It was almost mid night and I could feel the restlessness in you, to know how your first birthday with me would be and what I would gift you. I would be lying if i say I was not restless myself, worrying whether you would like what I have got for you. I blindfold you and take you into the room, I whisper in your ears "Happy Birthday Sweetheart" and you jump with joy and hug me back. You see the faint yellow light filling the room, coming from a strange looking jar and you ask me if that's for you and I nod in affirmation. You take it in your hands and tell me it's so sweet. You stare at it as if I gifted you the Sun itself and you want to see how it looks from up close. Then you turn back and ask what else have I got. I give you a birthday card and you start reading it aloud. I sense that you wanted something more and that you were not really excited about the jar. Though you never said anything I could read your mind, and you know that I could do that.

Somewhere in the middle of the night I woke up startled; might have been a bad dream. The yellow light from the jar was still radiating in the room. I found myself getting out of the bed and moving towards the source of the light, without my volition. I took the jar and felt captivated by the light coming from it. It felt a little eerie and then the words of the seller flashed in my mind, "open the lid while the jar is glowing and make a wish and you will travel through time". Without my realizing what was happening I opened the lid and I made a wish. The next thing I remember is of being in a hospital. No, nothing happened to me. I am actually walking down the corridor of the hospital, but not sure where I am going. I could feel me walking behind myself and trying to see what I was doing. I stop in front of the maternity ward and peep in. I see lot of newly mothers with their new borns sleeping. I step in and start to look around. Little did I realized then what I was looking for but the moment I saw her I realized that this was it. It was your mom, and I could recognize her instantly as if I had seen her a hundred times before. She was in deep sleep but looked really tired, like after a storm, from the experience of delivering her first child, who was sleeping next to her, a girl. Yes, it was you. I came closer to the bed and looked at you. Surprisingly you were not asleep, and I smiled thinking that you don't sleep much even now. You looked at me and smiled, as if you knew I was coming and you were staying awake for me. I fell for your smile, as I always do and I took you in my arms. You felt so small and delicate that I wanted to put you back on the bed, but I was afraid that you will create a scene if I did that and I did not wanted to be caught in a maternity ward, dead in the night, with a baby in my arms which was not mine. I brought you close to my face and kissed you. I looked into your eyes and felt lost, not knowing where I was, what was happening and what I was doing. Slowly you closed your eyes and I came out of your spell. I closed my eyes and made a wish again.

You were still fast asleep, just as when I had left, oblivious to what I had done and what I had in my arms. I looked at you and whispered in my mind, "look what I have got for you. I got you". I closed the lid of the jar and felt relieved and startled at the same time. The words of the seller resonated in my mind, "you will believe me one day". I pressed you into me and took you into the other room. I sat on the couch and looked at your face. I thought about how you were not happy about the gift I gave you just hours ago and now when I'll give you yourself what would your expressions be like. Would you be able to recognize yourself and feel weak in your knees or will you just get worried about whose baby is this in your house. I guess you will recognize yourself, but that would be the easy part. The hard part would be to explain to you how I did it. But after all is said and done I am sure you'll be overjoyed.

Just then you enter the room. You might have woken, and not finding me next to you, might have got worried. I am worried too, not sure how you would react to having a baby but when you see yourself as your baby I am certain that you will be at loss for words. I don't think it gets any better than this. We always think that we know best as to what is good for us and if one gets to shape one's own life, what could be better than that. I hope, you remember all the small things that you wanted to do when you were young, all the things you disliked, what made you angry and sad and what set your heart racing, what you disliked about your parents and what you always yearned for them to do for you, how you always wanted to be pampered and no one to get angry at you. Though the list of how, what, when and why seems endless I am sure it's all stored away in your mind. I am giving you a chance again in life, to do all of it your way. With all that you have experienced in life I am sure, if given a chance, you will be the best mother to yourself. Once you get over the initial shock of seeing yourself in your own arms, you would look at me and ask, why such a gift, why me? Well, haven't I said I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Well, I had a change of mind. Now I think just the rest of your life is not good enough. I want to spend the rest of my life experiencing the whole of your life, growing old with me as my wife and starting younger as my girl. You would call me selfish but I would agree to it gladly this time. Just that very moment you smile, as if you were listening to what was going in my mind.

You come close to me and take her from me. Then for the first time you look into your small sparkling eyes with relief and kiss yourself. I am waiting to hear what would be the first words you would say to your baby, to yourself. Then with eyes filled with tears and voice choked with emotions, you utter the words - "Happy Birthday Tisca"

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

It's only words- Are they?

What happens inside our mind is incomprehensible. I was fascinated to psychology years ago for the same reason. My mother feared too much love for the subject ,would turn me a psycho which I do not deny I am ,still it fascinated me . A part of mine interprets my thought processes as I act it out, just as you make sense of each word you read now. Is that not fun?

You read with such ease that you never realise it is a miracle. Reading these words and making sense of it simultaneously amazes me. If your eyes get locked at something you did not understand your Microsoft word (your brain) searches for synonyms or something similar you heard to assist you/

Imagine being illiterate , you roam around seeing colourful shapes that mean nothing to you. And imagine the joy you had while reading your name – the bond you felt with those colourful shapes which meant you- which meant your identity- no wonder each time we learn a language we learn to write our name first and cherish it.

And this mind of ours is cluttered with lots of words big and small- compliments, taunts, appreciation, pain, love notes, sweet nothings, and nothing- something.

We index them neatly, some of us have them cluttered too, some lucky one lose them. We bring them out in fights, crisis and cud chewing moments and delight, pride and weep over them.

Sometimes in the middle of the whole process mind goes blank and if you know what I mean it’s a beautiful experience. There were moments when I kept repeating A-L-W-A-Y-S back and forth and still could not believe it is a word and forgot what it meant. Only people who love words would no what I mean and not passerby. I often pause at scrabble board and amaze myself at the discovery of new meanings. The problem Is we throw words in a sentence as if we made them.

I have a friend who loves Derrida deconstruction) and keeps deconstructing a word till you cant any further. He asks what’s a chair? And I said, “something you sit on”. “But that could be a log too”, he says and then I say, “well chair is a thing which has a back support can be of metal or wood or plastic and of a particular shape”. But disproving me, he gives alternatives for all the above. Google the word chair and you would see pictures which will re define your definition of a chair.

And if conveying the meaning of something non living as a chair is so difficult, what about a living mind? Doesn’t a word fail to express the most joyous and saddest moments of life? Just as cameras cannot capture the essence of the moment. Doesn’t the transfer of thoughts from mind to paper lose a lot of essence? Nothing living can be preserved so we call them memories. What remains is just an evidence which says “ I was here- I experienced it”. And still all these literature, pieces of information flung at you in papers mystify you that they convey a lot. Do they?

That’s what makes me crazy about human mind and words.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

'WE', the people of India

Today is one such day when Her Highness is not around and I feel like putting up a post. But I am not thrilled to do it because it's difficult for me to come to terms with the fact that Bhuji is looking after a friend who has contracted Swine Flu. It's really brave of her, and another friend of hers, to forget their sense of well being and help one of their batchmate. In the end, in the fight against the unknown disease, it's was only these two people who came forward to help and everybody else had excuses galore. 'In prosperity your friends know you, in adversity you know your friends', the words echo in my mind. And sitting hundreds of miles away I can only pray for their health and humbly request the same from you. But still can't help reflecting on the kind of people we are and therefore sharing these thoughts with you :-

Why are our homes and building complexes spick and span but the sidewalks and roads a settlement of trash and filth? How hundreds of us can crowd around an accident but not a single one to help the victims? Why do we need to swear with every breath to make a point? Why are we always a crowd and never a queue? And when we are in one why do we always feel the need to jump the queue? Why are we always in a state of hurry as if life is an infinite-athalon? How did we end up being the second most populous country with ‘SEX’ being such a taboo? Why do we worship women as goddesses but burn them alive when they our wives? Why do we know exactly how others should lead their life and nothing about what we should do with our own? Why do we feel it’s ok to engrave our names on historical monuments, as if the great grand-children will come looking for it? Why are the roads always in a state of being dug-up; looking for a lost civilization are we? Why punctuality never landed on our shores, maybe because time and tide waits for Indians? Why do we become arsonists and plunderers at the end of every peaceful protest? Why we travel ticketless and then complain about the pathetic state of the transport system? Why are there more people coming to see-off friends and relatives at a station or an airport than the number of travelers themselves? Why do we evade taxes by all possible means and then grumble about the sorry state of affairs? Why do we always feel an urge to spit while we are on the road and never so at home? Why do we always jump red lights as if red means to pass and green too? Why is bargaining the synonym of shopping for us? Why do we never smile; saving all of it for afterlife are we? Why do we relieve ourselves at will with no regard for places, people or protocol? Why are we so hooked up on boobs and six-packs? Why do we need loudspeakers to spread the word around and crackers to declare celebration? Why do we try to retrieve our overheard baggage even before the plane has landed? Why some of us have never uttered the word ‘Sorry’ in our whole life? Why do we always prefer cheap over quality and fakes over genuine? Why engineers and doctors are only what our children are expected to become? Why dowry is an excuse for the payment of expenses on a boy’s upbringing and education; do girls get it for free in this country? Why is money next to godliness and they keep switching places? Why do we think foreigners are the horniest creatures roaming on the planet and an easy catch for that matter? Why telling a lie comes naturally to us and giving excuses a habit? Why are we indifferent when we need to react and belligerent when we need to be quiet? Why capital punishment in schools is part of the curriculum? Why politics is not ‘for the masses’ but ‘for the money’ and politicians are ‘not by the people’ but ‘by the powerful’? Why do we need wars to unite us as a country, otherwise there are enough battles to be fought within? Why is there a waiting list for anything that can be listed? Why is life all about a job, a house and two square meals? Why are cricketers paid millions in this country and martyrs and war veterans die in penury? Why maiming a child increases his begging potential by many folds? Why the caste divide renders some people less than human and others turn into kings? Why do we have so many religions but so little faith? Why is there so much emphasis on education but none on learning social sense? Why everything here is done with an ulterior motive and acts of compassion took the last flight to Mars? Why is the birth of a girl child akin to the death of the Mahatma? Why are here more shanties than decent dwelling places? Why do we complain about the incapability of the government but never go to cast our votes? Why are we so worried about after-life when we know not what to do with this one? Why is the best thing the authorities can do it to say “we are doing our best”? Why is getting justice such a long drawn out process that winning and losing doesn’t matter in the end? Why do we get to see elected representatives only during election campaigns and never after until it’s time again? Why does something get built in ten years when the plan was to do it in one-tenth of that? Why life in the villages is so appalling that living in the slums is like Las Vegas? Why religion divides us from the ones who follow a different one, no lesser from the ones who follow the same? Why voyeurism is a means of entertainment and neighbour’s affairs a primetime soap? Why is corruption so rampant that one has to grease a palm, even to gets one’s stitched back? Why is my ego as big as a hot air balloon and the sense of forgiving the size of a pin-head? Why are our driving skills pre-human and the conditions of the road prehistoric? Why are we satisfied with what we achieve and never try to push the bill a little harder? Why does a 'selfless act' makes us to think twice but for a movie or Pizza Hut we are ever ready? Why are we like this: We, the people of India, why?

Friday, September 4, 2009

A snake, a stalker, few paranthas and lots of pain

2:05 am: I woke up with a shooting pain in my chest. I could not breathe. I badly wanted to yawn and realised the more I tried, the more it ached. Technically there was congestion between my sternum and the lowest rib, at the right side. I tried all yogic positions hoping it was gastritis. Then tried hot water bag and analgesics. They had no effect and it was almost 3 am. I thought of waking my friends but felt pity on disturbing their schedules the next day. I thought of calling the ambulance as I was almost breathless. Finally I decided to call my loved ones at home though it felt crazy at that hour of the day. I was scared that I would not hear from them again. Mom was an insomniac so she picked up the phone immediately. She said she had a premonition that something was wrong and asked me to go to the hospital immediately. Our dear editor took some time to pick up and was tensed. I noted mentally not to call men folk in crisis- that is if I survived. Somewhere at the back of my mind I strongly felt it was gastritis. I was still scared because one of mom’s friend died of cardiac arrest which she mistook as gastritis and had therefore deferred going to the doctor.

3:30am: I could not bear it any longer and called my friend ‘T”, who was far more composed and thought we should call the person next door too. ‘FOI’, who was next door person, thought it was 6 am and I was calling her for playing badminton, so she said she won’t make it now and dozed off. “T”and I called the ambulance and she asked me to rock myself till the ambulance arrived. Now as if my planets - Mars and Jupiter were waging wars, all the three emergency numbers of the hospital went unanswered. The security guard at the hostel called up the control room and informed no one was responding at the hospital reception and that we had a case of emergency. I was crying feeling helpless. I just wanted to breathe, I could bear the pain but I wanted to breathe and maybe to even live. I thought of all those dying patients I sat with at Regional cancer centre who gasped for their final breath. I decided not to fight with the editor and my friends- if I came back alive. I decided to work seriously, pray hard. I thought of all my friends at the insti whom I wanted to talk to. If this was my last chance they too would regret not meeting me. There was no sign of the ambulance even by 4 am . I was carrying this pain inside me for 2 hrs now. I consoled myself saying this is nothing compared to the cross Christ bore. I saw that “T” was drowsy and I realised the angst Christ had when his friends and disciples were sleeping at Gethsamene. “Spirit is willing, flesh is weak”, I kept repeating inspired by my spiritual alter to calm myself. “It’s nothing fatal you idiosyncratic hypochondriac,” my rational alter yelled.

The week before had also been hellish. I had two bad experiences on campus. A stalker who followed me saying some crap and also proved to be an amateur exhibitionist. My friend and I who were victims of this incident had lodged a complaint hence I was famous among the security officers. The very next day I spotted a snake in front of my room. Now placing all these pieces of jigsaw puzzle together, the security officers drew a traditional and logical analysis. The traditional one was that my planets were on a collision course and these were all series of mishaps indicating it. First the stalker, followed by the snake and now the chest pain.
Logical version was that all the events from the week has stressed me and I was scared which led to the chest pain. So unlike other cases, this time the security officer himself took his bike to go see why the institute hospital was not responding. If the girl died they would be accused for not tracking stalkers who frighten women on campus.
If they asked me I had a third version which would make more sense. I had Alu parantha the previous night and Alu sabzi and Dal in the afternoon. I have a medical history of gastritis since 10 years and I don’t need any planets to contribute further. Alas! They had their own theories and I was bathing in their pool of pity.

4:15 am : Finally the ambulance arrived and I was rushed to the hospital. The
drowsy nursed tried injecting panatcid, failing four times, to find a vein. The doctor was irritated at the early morning emergency and listened to my woes. I felt miserable being there, disturbing their sleep.
“The pain will persist whole day”, she said and prescribed something for gastritis and muscle pain. ”T” was worried if they had diagnosed it wrongly in their sleep and what if things worsened in hours. We stayed back till morning and returned to my room. The pain still persisted. I drifted to sleep promising myself – If I survive .............................I won’t eat Alu paranthas ever.