Stay


Hey August,

Stay a little while longer, why don’t you? We can continue to have fun.

Sleeping till late and promising to adopt a proper routine soon everyday.

Eating junk food. Trying to control our junk food intake.

Being a complete potato couch.  Watching horror movies. Microwaving popcorn and being happy they didn’t come out burnt.

Talking to mom in the kitchen as she cooks. Dreaming about being as good as those kids in MasterChef Junior.

Feeling jealous of the people going abroad for studying. Watching little kids talking like smart adults.

Trying to write more than a couple of whiny tweets. Trying to read the books we bought. Being glued to our cellphone.

Buying pretty clothes. Trying to think of ways to pack them best. Making lists and plans.

Wanting to go to lunch with friends. Writing a bucket list. Putting everything off.

Dancing in the monsoon rain. Getting comfortable on the phone. Thinking things might be okay.

Feeling utterly confused and being too bemused to show it. Pretending we’re okay.

Being utterly terrified and too afraid to show it.

And if you don’t stay…If you go, you take it all with you…

Except the fear.

So take my hand and look me in the eye and tell me you won’t leave me. Tell me you won’t succumb to time.

Tell me you won’t leave me alone with my fear.

Tell me.

Please, August. Stay.

Grandparents


My (maternal) grandmother sat there, eyes down. I was accompanying her to the eye doctor’s for a check-up. As she sat there, I couldn’t help but wonder at how dejected she looked.

It was heart-breaking. I can’t even imagine losing my eye sight completely and being so helplessly dependent on people around me. But more than that, it was the age-factor that distressed me. This woman, who was one of the strongest I ever knew, sat there looking so sad, so…

And while the doctor examined her eyes and everything and talked to my mother (who was there too), I sat back and wondered how much I owe her.

From a complete rural background and uneducated herself, she made sure that her oldest daughter (my aunt) attended college, despite much resistance. And her husband, my maternal grandfather made sure he helped her as much as was possible. Picking, dropping, teaching, etc. Of course, that meant there was no question that my mom wouldn’t be going to college.

With my paternal grandfather, I found out at a much later age that he was not kidding when he said he only studied till Grade Three. With his father passing away, he took to work with his elder brother to support their family. Sure he only knew phrases of English, but hearing him talk, you’d never know he wasn’t well-learned/educated. And I remember how my paternal grandmother told me she had studied up to Grade Five, which was a big, big deal at that time. However, she sadly explained that since she didn’t have much use for it, most of it was forgotten in the daily life routine & work.

Of course, they made sure that their kids – ALL of them – went to school as much as possible, and learned enough to survive in the world. And all this is an era where education was considered an added bonus, not a compulsion like in today’s times.

No, I’m not making a case for education. I’m making a case for my grandparents, for the three of them alive and the one who has joined his Maker.

I’m perpetuating their memory, their deeds and their struggles. I’m looking at them withering away in front of my eyes. Slowing down a little each day. And I know that I only have limited moments left with them.

And that I need to make each moment count.

I just hope that the little things that I might be able to do for them these days, count an itsy bitsy towards “repaying” them for all they’ve done.

Afterall, I owe it all to them, by the grace of God, and so, SO, much more!

Love & prayers!

For Better Or For Worse


Who am I?

Identity is an important part of life but what is it that defines and characterizes it? How do I know who I am?

These questions keeps coming up in my mind again and again.

Mostly, I come to the conclusion that I am who I choose to be. That I can be what I want to be. Anything and anyone.

And yet I keep forgetting an essential fact: from the moment of birth, nay conception, I’ve already been assigned certain roles.

Daughter. Sister. Cousin. Grandchild.

And before I will know, these will be transformed into even bigger ones – Wife. Mother. Aunt. Grandmother.

So with all these facets of self and roles to fulfill, who am I?

Am I not me and merely daughter of X, sister of Y, cousin of Z? Am I me because I am daughter of X, sister of Y, cousin of Z? Or am I me and being daughter of X, sister of Y, cousin of Z is of no consequence?

At the end of the day though, there’s no running away from consequence.

Here, it’s the fact that no matter how hard I try to look the other way, I cannot deny it. I cannot deny the truth of these roles. I cannot just get rid of blood, love or obligations. I cannot close my eyes and pretend they don’t define at least a part of me. I cannot look the other way and say that they are not a part of me…

Do I HAVE to be defined within these roles though? Doesn’t it seem a tad…unfair? But who’s to say I can’t have my own spin on them?

After all, I AM me as well. My own person. I cannot deny this truth either!

So maybe the answer doesn’t have to be one or the other. Maybe it can be an “All of the above”.

And so this is what I choose. Being me. Being my parents’ daughter. Being a sister to my siblings. Being a cousin to all my cousins. Being a grandchild to both sets of grandparents. And embracing the newer roles that might come my way, whenever that may or may not be.

For better or for worse.

Demons


I don’t like fairy tales, mostly for their fantastic nature. I don’t believe in them. I can’t believe in them. Things don’t happen that way.

So if a fairy dies because I don’t believe in it, it doesn’t matter. Because it’s not even real and it’s merely a tale!

Demons, on the other hand, are real enough.

We don’t even recognize them but we are their best friends. They burrow deep into our hearts and make permanent homes there. It doesn’t matter whether we believe in them or not. They don’t need us to believe to exist.

They simply do, quietly doing their jobs. A whisper here. A nudge there. And voila!

Eyes narrowed. Brows furrowed.

We only see what they want us to see. We only hear what they want us to hear. We only do what they want us to do.
And we do. And we do. And we do.

Nothing else matters then. No blood, no relation, no faith, no sense. No fairy tale can save us from their clutches.

Nor any magic, neither logic.

And all because these demons are deeply rooted in our hearts – thanks to all our insecurities and what we term as “realism” but is in fact pessimism wearing the cleverest disguise.

And we do. And we do. And we do. All their bidding.

Till everything turns to ash.

No rest till then.

Leap of Faith


This is the tale of a trip down memory lane which makes me nostalgic and proud and less lost sometimes…

Completely calm, I stood straight, with my toes as close to the edge as possible and surveyed the lake below. It twinkled blue and calm back at me in the evening sun. I will do the counting myself, I told the instructor. Just keep your legs as straight as possible, he replied. I crossed my arms in an ‘X’, counted in my head and jumped.

Easy peasy, right?

Looking back, I wonder how and where I got the courage to go through with it…

The view from the edge/top

The view from the edge/top

I jumped off a 60+ foot cliff into the lake below. While:

  1. Having a fear of heights (I don’t like vertigo)
  2. Along with a major phobia of large water bodies (what if there is a shark in there?!)
  3. Also, having practically no training in swimming.
  4. And, only wearing a measly life jacket.

Not kidding.

Oh, and twenty minutes ago, one of the members of our group apparently jumped wrong, injured her back and was paralyzed for quite a few months afterwards.

Gulp.

(Of course, we only got to know about this part much later. At that time, we only knew that she couldn’t move.)

I remember sitting there on the cliff, my girls around me, waiting for our turn, thinking out loud, singing a bit. E asked me: Are we doing this?

I remember I was calm and humming the Strings’ classic Sur Kiye Yeh Pahaar (it was just too appropriate) as I answered.

I have come all the way here to do this. That we have just been up a huge mountain and then down a cave – which was incidentally full of bat shit…! So, yes! We are going to do this!

And that’s exactly what I did.

It was only when I was in the water that I panicked, feeling the weight of all those ten seconds (maybe less) that it took to come to the surface. Spluttering and gasping, and with the aid of our great group guides, I hauled myself up to the safety of the boat, opened my eyes and only then realized how BIG the cliff really was.

Yikes! Did I just jump off a 60+ foot cliff into a lake and managed not to drown?!

And that's the view from the boat

And that’s the view from the boat

I sat there, wet and shivering. Watching as my friends’ and other group members took their turns. And all I could think of was the jump and the plunge and the exhilaration I felt after doing something that was generally very scary.

These days, I sometimes remember that moment: how I was so sure that nothing would go wrong. I was afraid, yes, but not enough to stop me… Where did this courage come from? Do I still have that in me?

Whether or not I do, since that trip a couple of years ago, I know that I have a great example in front of me that, (especially when a self pep talk seems necessary) illustrates the following message:

  1. Let go of your fear.
  2. Jump off the cliff.
  3. Take a leap of faith.
  4. You’ll only know if it is worth it once you do it.

Just gotta know which cliff to dive off!

Cookie Dough


Lately, I’ve been feeling so lost and disconnected that I drew a blank when I tried to define these feelings, for myself or for others’ benefit.

How do you that your dreams appear to have become an even more distant possibility? That you’re swimming without a life jacket and you don’t know how to swim? That you built mere sandcastles too close to the sea?

That you will never be…done?

And then, Lucy’s Football helped me out by quoting from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Lucy says:

I think of Buffy telling Angel, “I’m cookie dough. I’m not done baking. I’m not finished becoming whoever the hell it is I’m gonna turn out to be. I make it through this, and the next thing, and the next thing, and maybe one day I turn around and realize I’m ready. I’m cookies.”

In fact, not only did I have a way to define what I was feeling (yes, labels help to process things), I realized some other (important) things:

  1. It’s okay to be cookie dough.
  2. I will be “done” when it is my time to be “done”.
  3. Good cookie dough will turn out to be good cookies.

Must keep this in mind to stop feeling so lost. Maybe a cookie will help?

We Are The Dead


Last night, I said:

Saying you’ve lost hope and won’t come out in support for such causes is equal to saying they have won.

(Yes, I just quoted myself!) And then, I ‘read’ this:

O’Brien went on:

“[We] cannot be wiped out because it is not an organization in the ordinary sense. Nothing holds it together except an idea which is indestructible. You will never have anything to sustain you, except the idea. You will get no comradeship and no encouragement. When finally you are caught, you will get no help…You will have to get used to living without results and without hope. You will work for a while, you will be caught, you will confess, and then you will die. Those are the only results that you will ever see. There is no possibility that any perceptible change will happen within our own lifetime. We are the dead. Our only true life is in the future. We shall take part in it as handfuls of dust and splinters of bone. But how far away that future may be, there is no knowing. It might be a thousand years. At present nothing is possible except to extend the area of sanity little by little. We cannot act collectively. We can only spread our knowledge outwards from individual to individual, generation after generation…In the face of [all this] there is no other way.”

George Orwell, 1984

And suddenly, so many things make sense. We need to get used to living without hope and without seeing any result, whatever the struggle we are involved in for this country. We need to understand that we are the dead. We need to remember that there is no other way. We need to make sure that we do this for the future, whenever that finally comes.