Katha kettutha…

Katha kettutha.. – the words echoing in my ears for a month now. Did you hear the story? That’s the literal meaning of it. But the depth and profoundness of those words are unfathomable to me. Every time he asks if I ‘heard the story’ , there is a great deal of wisdom, love and thrill in his words. The undying spirit of a man eager to live life to its fullest. The man who’s only a memory now. But his words and his stories are etched forever in my thoughts.

So he died. Big deal. People die. Hundreds of thousands of people do. A hundred lives passed as I typed this sentence, all over the world. But when it’s close home, that’s when it halts the world. It was unexpected now. He was doing good, going by his life and taking care of ammammai, and watching over all of us. But I wouldn’t say it’s out of nowhere. He was old. And I thought he was dying a decade ago when he was hospitalised. Somehow with a certain age, you think people are ‘die-able’. And he was in that category. More than anyone else, he was the one who made peace with it the most. He wrote down his obituary, funeral arrangements, last wishes, and namesake will of all his and his wife’s belongings to the last detail. Neatly folded the document and entrusted with my dad for safekeeping, only to be presented when the ‘time’ comes. Without exaggeration, I literally wrote down his exact words with some fillers for his own obituary in the newspapers. I couldn’t believe I was doing so but did that without a thought anyway. Thatha never stops to awe you, never ever. He was a meticulous man, even in death.

It’s been exactly a month now. Am I seeking closure? A week ago when I started writing this, closure is what I sought. From the time of hearing the news, until this moment, I can’t stop hearing he asking me ‘katha kettutha’. Through the rites, I hardly cried. I was in a trance, shocked by this voice in my head. It felt like there are more stories he wanted to say, more memories he had to share and more about him that we all had to know. With time, of course the voice is fading. And that’s when I realized what I seek is not closure. What I seek is for his memory to stay with me. Not once a year during thavasham. Not when I taste a food he liked, or when I hear his name, or see ammammai. I want to bear him in my thoughts as a constant. A random story he once said, his mannerisms, his appearance, the ring he never let me have but always let me try steal..

I thought seeing ammammai without pottu would be the most heartbreaking thing after. It is the empty arm chair and the missing ring to steal that kill me though. It’s not what he was to others, it is who he was. S. Narayanan.

Perils of an empty head!

Being stupid is perilous? Being called an idiot. Being taken advantage of. Being easily skipped over. It must be a hard life being stupid aka an empty head. Then again, how would I know. I am not stupid. But the head is almost empty. Barely some strands of hair and that’s it. And that’s usual for my age, totally. But then it was not a big huge deal for me for a really long time.

It was a weird feeling though. People would just randomly start staring at my baldness mid-conversation and just wouldn’t stop. That was very awkward. You’d relate better if you are woman when I say this. You know those instances when someone’s gaze would travel down your neck and stop further down at an uncomfortable angle. Well, I had the twin challenge. I had to resist people’s eyes wandering neither north nor south of my face. Trust me that’s an absolute challenge with an average face! It’s not like people get caught in their trails with ‘looks’!

People would eventually stare and offer their condolences for my ‘passed’ hair strands. Some offer oil prescriptions on the go. Some offer exuberant hair therapies. And there was this one lady at the railway station once, couple of years ago. She offered to make an offering to a local ‘hair-specialist’ goddess for my sake. That warmth indeed shook me, and I am pretty sure I have already written about her. Apart from some rare crazy moments, it’s mostly an annoying experience to hear people lament about hair.

Lately, have been feeling bad about it myself. Probably because it’s all locked down and there aren’t much people to whine over my hair, that I thought it’s my turn now. I could use some more hair perhaps!

P. S. All references of self-loathing should be ignored as side effects of having too much time to stare at the mirror, even while on office calls. It’s all about working things out from home after all.

A conversation

Person:
Why can’t all people be equally happy or equally sad?

Why are some more happy and some more sad?

Another person:
I guess that’s an eternal question that doesn’t have a solution.

It’s also similar to asking why are some people rich and some poor.

Disparity is rooted in humanity.

In material and immaterial attributes.

Wealth, happiness and what not!

Person:
Beauty is in disparity is such a cringing statement that I can’t stop uttering.

Another person:
Isnt it not?

What drives us to live?

Desire?

Where does desire come from?

Disparity.

If all of us live unhappily, or equally happily, what do we look upto? What makes us live for the next day?

Person:
Yeah, that’s what I meant. But we can say that philosophically because we are on the other side of the equal.

Another person:
Yes.

Person:
It’s simple. When problem hits us, it stops being beautiful in disparity.

Another person:
Disparity is not really beautiful or ugly.

It is merely something that exists. And could be a root cause of all human existence.

Exactly like ego.

Without ego, there is no humanity.

These are some abstract constructs that keeps us alive.

Desire is driven by despair. Despair is driven by ego. God knows what ego is driven by. Our human nature?

Person:
😊

Person:
Some equals are more equal than some other.

How (un)fortunate!

So this weird thing happened today. Mom was upset about something in the family. And she was loudly retrospecting on why does this happen to us alone. Me, not okay with mom feeling bad about anything, immediately pitched in on how it is not just for us. Things go wrong for everyone and we just don’t get to know since its private. Tada, did my part and I was ready to move on from the topic. Out of nowhere, my sister weighed in her perspective of things and elaborated my point with some neighborhood stories of similar experiences. And mom seemed visibly calmer. Maybe because she realised our point is valid and began to share the perspective. Or maybe because she was surprised about how her daughters are all grown up. I’m not sure what she thought. But I personally am quite proud of how insightful my sister has grown up to be. Last I checked, she was just a kid!

Off topic, if you feel bad about how 2020 has made your life horrible and feel miserable, take a deep breath and close your eyes. Now think of all those 2020 desk calendars eating dust on the locked up office tables. With no one to flip their leaf and with no realisation of life’s purpose! How does that make you feel now? A tiny bit better is the right answer. 😉

Janaki ammoomma

Janaki bhai. Or Janaki ammoomma? She made a transition to and fro between the two. She came into my life as my pseudo-nanny. She didn’t really baby-sit me, but picked me up from kindergarten and walked me to a day-care nearby. I’d spend my evening with Valsala ammoomma till dad came to pick me up. Valsala ammoomma had many kids my age to cater to, and an assistant, Mani chechi. By the time I reach the day-care, everyone would be up, having their evening snacks. Mani chechi would play with us for a while and soon leave, as the kids start leaving. One by one, all of them would leave, and it’d be just me and Valsala ammoomma. She’d then take me to her home adjacent to the day-care. I’d watch her make tea and crush the areca nut, layer the tobacco and make a cute betel leaf pocket with a touch of slaked lime. It is a beautiful sight to watch her meticulously prepare the murukkaan (paan’s Kerala version). Then she’d offer me a piping hot cup of tea to relish. I was hesitant initially, mostly because tea was a new thing and I was worried if parents wouldn’t approve of it. Mind you, I was barely 5. But when I finally took the cup, I tasted the most exquisite ‘chaaya‘ and the taste still lingers in my tongue. Every ‘good’ chaaya ever since takes me back to Valsala ammoomma’s kitchen and the kitchen doorway where I sat watching the bustling traffic. Memories like these come with a tinge of loss and a lot of happiness.

That was an unplanned digression. But one is incomplete without the other. Back to Janaki ammoomma, somewhere in the middle of all these, she got promoted as a house help for my working mom. As kindergarten came to an end and when day-care was not very exciting, I started coming back home to Janaki ammoomma who waited for me at the door. She’d clean and I’d watch TV, and she’d keep me company till parents come. Things changed when sister came into the scene and I grew old enough to be home alone. Amidst and beyond all of that, some things haven’t changed. The memory of she running to reach home lest I be alone, the rare occasions where the ‘auto chettan’ who picked me up from school picked her up too, panting and running on her way to our home. Her overgrown mole in the middle of her chin, her frail build, her rough hands that used to hold my hand walking from school to the day-care, her alcoholic son, and most of all her calling me “Soumyakkutty…”!

P.S. Ammoomma is Malayalam for grandma.

Tears make you…

Strong, or weak? It’s a debated topic. Boys shouldn’t cry, men shouldn’t show their weakness and so on. Sometimes it’s beyond gender. Crying is somehow always associated with weakness and fragility. It’s weird though, that the other extreme of emotions aren’t associated with weakness or vulnerability. If you ask me, I think a person is the most vulnerable when they are angry. Of course, crying is perhaps the saddest phase, but anger is when you have no control on your words, your body language, your psyche as such. Anger is when you say things you wouldn’t have said otherwise, anger is when you lose your mind – anger is your vulnerability. When you cry, you expose your vulnerability, of course. So do you, when you are angry. The difference is, one vulnerability is exploited in favour of others but not necessarily against you, and the other vulnerability is almost always exploited against your own interests. When in tears, you might agree to give away half your wealth to someone empathizing with you. But in anger, you might just end up breaking the most expensive vase you bought last week. Without having to explain, wealth and the vase are all just metaphors and not literally about their physical worth. I always fear being exploited in a way that I lose something cherished, than someone else gaining something from me. But again, I cry as often as I lose my temper and throw stuff around (atleast inside my head!). It’s a balance most people struggle to establish. I would totally like to say crying makes you stronger, but that could be very one-sided since I don’t know how strong you get without crying. One thing I can, however, is that anger makes you equally fragile and weak in the knees. Should we not start a saying that ‘Boys shouldn’t be angry’? Perhaps, take out the gender and rephrase – ‘People who make it are people who start with inner balance!’

Lessons in Forgetting

Kavitha kurikkuvan kaminiyayi, omanikkan ente makalayi,

Valsalyamekuvan ammayayi, nervazhikattunna thozhiyayi,

Pinneyen jeevante spandanam polum nin

Swararaga layabhava thalamayi. Arinjathalle nee arinjathalle…

Ninakkai… Aadyamai… Ormakkai.. . iniyoru sneha geetham!

I was probably 10-12 years old when East Coast Vijayan released his music album series – Ninakkai, Aadyamai, Ormakkai, Swantham (For you, For the first time, For remembrance, Yours truly). Music albums had only started being a ‘thing’ then, atleast in Malayalam. Despite how long it has been, I find myself humming these lines quite randomly even today. The image of the hero and heroine of the album and their poetic love have made a very deep memory in my mind. Though I’ve relished many other romantic poems and versatile lyricists, East Coast Vijayan and his trio series pop out of nowhere every time. Being the first has such lasting impressions. It is just not about music for me. I seem to remember an unnecessary load of things from the past that I just can’t get rid of. I remember my first (and only) dentist, first hospitalisation, first time of hearing about someone’s death, first burn, first conversation with my longest standing friend (it has been 24 years), first news of heartbreak (I very clearly remember how my mom broke the news to me – that I won’t be the only apple of their eyes – that’s 20 years again). Just too many of first time memories – all well before I was 10 or 12. There’s nothing really wrong about remembering things. I remember the good and the bad equally – from random conversations to life altering moments. But I wish a part of it just fades away. I don’t want to feel the pang of nostalgia every time I hear a music, see a person, be at a place or notice the date. Ah dates – don’t even get me started! You remember your birthday. Family’s. Friends’. Significant other’s. Some anniversaries. Some deaths. Maybe some more. Do you remember the birthday of a colleague you worked with barely for a year? Do you remember the anniversary of your distant cousin? Death anniversary of a relative you never really knew? Naming ceremony of your neice? Birthdays of classmates whose faces you’ve forgotten? Well, I do. And that is such a painful experience. You remember it’s special for someone today, but you don’t even care about it sometimes. It is an ugly reminder of some memories from the past and some people you’ve lost on the way. It’s just a memory of your memories.

By no means does this mean that I’ve a stellar memory. I forget routine stuff like a normal person. I can’t find a book I read and cherished just a year ago. I misplaced the title ‘Lessons in Forgetting’ by Anita Nair and it’s frustrating!

No Comments

How do you use your social media? Do you regret using it too much? Do you feel like you aren’t using it enough? I am not sure if these are thoughts everyone would relate to. People don’t deeply think about their social media usage patterns. Duh, that’s such a pointless exercise! But then, there could be a select few like me who just can’t stop overthinking. Lately, I’ve been analysing how I use this medium. Well, I’m not particularly bothered by the extent of usage because I’m on very select platforms only. What got me thinking was the abundance of content around me. I’m fairly active on Twitter, but there is no mention about any political affiliation, any social issue or any other ‘trending’ discussions in my profile. It is a quite space for myself, where I share my musings, my tiny random thoughts and follow things that are of importance to me. Not ‘tweeting’ about something doesn’t mean I’m in support of it, or I’m against it, or worst yet, that I’m ignorant about it. By ‘I’, I mean a tiny set of people who don’t comment about every single thing around us, but still live a full social life. There’s this one particular Twitter handle I’ve been following for some years. It was a contact through a Tech conference and I see regular updates from that person on tech alone. And once in a while about personal life, but never about the ‘alarming’ social issues. That has been my happiest part of the Twitter feed ever since. It feels good to have fresh thoughts to relish, breaking the monotony. I am not very vocal about my political opinions generally. It is not because I don’t have a stand, but because enough and more being discussed already. The deluge of opinions and comments about everything under the Sun (of course, above it too) – it is causing a rampage in the cyber space. Each one of us have our rights to express, I agree. But do we have to execute it as a duty shoved onto us? Too many are speaking, yet too less is heard. Listening is so underrated after all.

Chauvinistic bastards

I am not a feminist, never was, never will be. Because, I don’t believe in discrimination on any basis – gender, age, race, economic status, language, knowledge, power – positively or negatively. Feminism to me is just discrimination on gender to ‘benefit’ out of it. If there’s any ‘-ism’ ever, it must be individualism and I hold that philosophy very closely. But lately, I feel suppressed – emotionally and intellectually. I am a working professional, socially active and emotionally open to new arenas of a social life. And I feel overwhelmed by what I experience each day – at work, on the road, in a discussion forum, a public place and the nuances of simple conversations! I wouldn’t call it out as misogynistic since it’s not always purely on gender, but it greatly does seem so. The biases have been based on age, power and even knowledge. It’s frustrating when you are cornered for being in a ‘discriminated class’. The co-worker who pulls the strings of ‘power’, the reckless driver who questions your ‘female’ driving, the male friend who ‘stares’, the relative who dismisses your ‘inexperienced’ knowledge – no I am not pulling a #metoo moment here. I am asking if this is a #youtoo moment. Have you dismissed a younger person’s wisdom because they aren’t ‘old enough’? Have you played the ‘victim card’ for your own recklessness on the road? Have you made someone uncomfortable by ‘ogling’ at them? Have you been rude to a subordinate because of your ‘entitlement’? Please say no. Please don’t be that person. You are scarring an individual by all those unfortunate moments of truth. Age, gender, power – they don’t make up a person. They are merely some states of a person. Don’t limit an individual’s experience with your inadequacy. Grow. And let grow.

So why does all these matter suddenly? Perhaps because of my fortunate half of life where I have been blessed with unbiased individuals. People who don’t judge you. People who see you for who you are without their baggy lenses. I have had humble bosses who respected their colleagues, dignified men who look up to women for their worth and a great deal of amazing people who make life worth exploring. It’s because of them that I sit down and contemplate on the rest of the world. Why not make a difference with a simple gesture, if it has the potential to make one more person relevant in this system. Why not!

22fk again!

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Vestiges of a messed up cake! This might not be anything more to anyone else, but me. To me, this the ultimate embodiment of love and care that could never be contested or questioned! I am elated by this. This mass of fluffly spongy sweetness means so much to me, for it was given to me, specially chosen for me, with utmost care and immense love. Don’t you dare question the ‘taste’ and the ‘quality’, for those are beyond any judgment! This was for me from my dear mama and mami! The delicacy of the cake and the worth of the ‘aashirvadam’ from my chachummai and thatha totally made my day, pushing my mood atop a sharp incline, from a very deep fall.

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And now that’s my petite little pendant of ‘Poornathrayeesan’ from mom and dad and Vidya. It made me so happy she remembered, that she even ‘made’ me an earring all by herself. I felt all the more loved! It totally was a birthday to me!

Is it so ridiculous of me that I find happiness in all these and go upto putting up an image and such pompous words about it? I am not sure how this might look like. As though I am the only one with birthdays or gifts! Besides the silliness, (and my mom’s complaints that I don’t know what to write about and what not to!), I find immense happiness and satisfaction in such infinitesimally small expressions of life and its being. I am very glad a friend so close, remembered my star and wished me! Aren’t friends just expected to know your date of birth from Facebook calendar’s afterall! I am so much more elated by that end of the day birthday wish. Isn’t that quite something to know that you were in somebody’s last thoughts of a day! So much more to be happy, when people could even spare that one moment to wish you, despite the strict uncompromised schedules! And naturally, I feel so blessed when I get a blissful poem as an apology for a forgotten wish!

What more can a person ask for? What made my day, or what makes my life, are fundamentally and ultimately in my little brain and how it interprets things! When I look at this post as my token of gratitude towards this existence, then so be it. And if I look at this as one of my many countless blabberings about insignificant details of life, then so be it!

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