I haven’t written much frequently in the last 3 years. I blame having nothing to write about apart from the misery of the world and the personal drama. For a long time, I thought there was nothing ‘happening’ around me. So finally took a step, and decided to venture outside my 4 walls to see what the world is dealing with. And what I saw, in a single day, are all worth pages of stories each. Let me summarize today, so that one of these days when I have nothing to write, I have something to brood on.
- Scene 1 – a vaccine centre in urban Kerala. Sparingly crowded, with enough and more frontline staff taking care of the entire arrangement. And then I notice, the crowd is almost fully elderly. Not surprising since free vaccinations are mostly for the 60+ age bracket. But what struck me is how all of they were alone. One or two couples, one or two with a bystander. But most of them, alone. For a vaccine that keeps them safe from a fatal virus. But, alone.
- Scene 2 – a town bus stand in urban Kerala. I enquire bus timings and walk away as I was running late. But the driver reminds me he is my best bet and assures to reach my destination in time. And he does. Drives safe, but keeps his schedule. Kerala private bus? Oh yes, I was surprised too.
- Scene 3 – an office reception in the heart of a Kerala city. I rush in with my share of food delivery (juice for the scorching heat). The guy at the reception insists I try out his food recommendations. Casually mentions vaccination, Covid deaths and how he lost his family members. Casually? Is he over it? Or is he just too much in denial?
- Scene 4 – security guard at the office reclined on a sofa. The building is empty except for me and him. Is cctv all that’s making me feel safe? Or is it his occasional checks on me? Or is it his taking away the earphones as I approach the door? Or is it just his greeting and enquiring if I’d be there the next day?
- Scene 5 – an auto rickshaw in urban Kerala. The mobile app is screwed and I am struggling to make him understand how to ‘fully’ quit an app and reopen it. App lights up and we begin our journey. Visibly distant to conversations I initiate, he looks new to the city, with his distinct slang. I get down a bit too away from home so that he finds his way out of the maze quickly. I explain the route and walk home. And I turn back to see him still parked where he dropped me off. I walk again and turn back again. He is still there till I take the last turn and out of his sight. Then I hear him accelerate and go his way. Was he looking out?
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.
Too close is my destination,
A lifetime is the distance.
Miles long is the path,
Mindless is my journey.
Bigger is the shadow it bears,
And smaller it gets as I near.
Why isn’t this called the path of irony,
Why do they still call it the path of success?
Too far yet too close is the flag,
Too soon to give up and lose.
Until I come, you said.
Until I die, I said.
The wait was a promise,
For you, for me, for us.
Time wouldn’t wait, nor
Would the world around.
As everyone and everything,
Embrace change and transience,
The sea of change stood still,
Waiting at the shore, for
You and me, for us.
Until I come, you said,
Until I die, I said,
Until you be, the sea said.
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. 😉
Depression is a very loosely used term. People don’t mostly understand the full meaning and scope of the word and throw it around so randomly. As an onlooker, it hurts to see that happening. The more cliched it becomes, lesser is its impact on the listener and the gravity of the situation gets lost. Depression is not merely a mental state. It is a disease that cripples life itself. You losing a loved one, not landing the dream job or being heartbroken in love doesn’t necessarily make you depressed. What you experience then is sorrow, sadness and despair. Some days, weeks or months pass by and you pull yourself together and move on. But if you try your best to get past it but cannot even bring yourself to rise from the bed, that is when you suffer from depression. When no amount of positivity can help you, when you break down in the middle of the night for reasons you can’t understand, when you lose the drive to just be – that’s when you are depressed. You sneeze one random time or catch a common cold – you wouldn’t proclaim you are suffering from COVID right? Every passing sorrow or a phase of grief shouldn’t be associated to depression for the very same reasons. The last thing you’d want to do to a loved one is to make it more difficult for them to open up, just by trivializing the term ‘depression’.
P. S. Above are my thoughts from experiences in person, through others’ experiences and some random reading. By no means do I intent to define the term ‘depression’ or limit its depth. You never know the full story unless you are a part of it.
Recently, the most stupid decision that I took was the 30-day blogging challenge with myself. I’m glad I didn’t invite anyone else into the challenge and put that person through the torture of reading what I write. The last couple of days whatever I wrote isn’t the best of me. Not just that, some of them are even utterly horrible. Somewhere between this challenge, I started looking at this as just another chore of the day. Somewhere, I did lose the spark of thoughts and the fluidity of words. Almost mid-way now, should I let go of this challenge then? After all, the content is bullshit. But no, I’m not letting go. Think of a sport you enjoyed before the Lockdown. Or a regular activity you did outside of your routine. You miss them now, I’m sure. And once the lockdown is lifted, you’d want to rush back to that routine of yours. With no practice for the last couple of months, would you have your best shot right away? A little warm up and some extra effort would make all the difference there. So is the case with my writing. This 30-day challenge is indeed with myself. To make me convinced that I can resume writing – write without a pause. Perhaps not the worst decision eh!
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!
“Avasanam njanum unnikuttanum mathram aayi. Njan pinne avante koode maari oridathu irunnu.” (In the end, I was left alone with Unnikuttan. So, I went on with him to sit down at some corner.) My friend complained about her loneliness in a family trip to a relative’s place. The man of the house engaged her dad in a conversation, parallely as her mom was comforted by the woman of the house. The newly wed sister was given company by the husband. So my lonely whiny friend was left alone with Unikuttan, the cat of the house. The imagery of her description was utterly hilarious. But that doesn’t diminish the intensity of the emotion. Walking alone, and being left alone in a group are totally different things. The awkward fitting in is a miserable fate.
To be there always and to be stopped being cared for. To be replaced. I no longer call it people’s selfishness. Once I did. But now I know. People change. So do demands. Situations change. So do priorities. Life has always been a tiring hunt of the priorities. Ever changing and never lasting. For now I think from both the ends. To be ignored by someone and, to ignore someone. Both quite doesn’t seem easy. People still do both. Unfailingly. For that’s how life has taken people thru. Being there forever doesn’t count as much as being there when most wanted. I’s never the duration in time, but the depth in impact.
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My dad is a typical average earning Indian. Not too much but just enough, is his shopping slogan! Of most things I am intrigued about him, his where-does-each-penny-go is the one that draws me more! Everytime I ask for something, he gets it for me, but only after his tiring set of tests. First question, “Unakkithu venama ippo?” (Do you actually want this now?). “Enna vilai? Ivvalavu aavuma? Innam rendu kadayila kettu pakkalaame!” (Does it really cost so much? Why don’t we just ask around a few more shops!) That’s pretty much all you need! The question keeps echoing, ‘Do I need this now?’. And if for the nth time, if the answer is still yes, yes, I am getting it from him! He never forgets to add, “Nyayamana karyam naan orikkalum venda chollamtten.” ( I never say no to your fair demands!) And that, to this day, he sticks to his word! The only thing he rejected outright was pizza, which, however, he accepted in a later period of time! The value for money, the need for self evaluation before throwing your wallet across the counter and the judgment of product utility – they are all things he taught me, without his own knowledge. Last week I go home to see this thing, hanging on the wall in our hall! The old rickety clock looked odd there, but I loved the tick-tick and the ding-dong! So I casually asked dad how much did it cost him. He said 1.5k. Silence. I didn’t ask anything more. The more I contemplated on it, the more interesting and funny it seemed! My count-every-penny dad bought this clock! I kept staring at it. Dad somehow felt the scope of an explanation, and he did. “I know its expensive.But it was just a craze to me, to own a mechanical clock”. He started explaining how it needs to be wound only once a week, and how the ding-dong startles him in the middle of the night and on and on. I though of mentioning the mechanical wrist watch we gifted him, but later thought otherwise. It was a man’s passion. To own a piece of elegant excellence, from his earlier life and past. I just had to smile! 🙂 Only to irritate him, I said how nice would it be for me to realise my passion too, by holding a 40k phone, despite the ‘expense’! And right came the response. A more advanced 45k thing would be out on the market, the moment I buy the 40k product. Things keep changing, improving upon their own predecessors. But nothing is ever gonna improve and replace the mechanical ding-dong wall clock. Somethings acquire worth, just be their being, from the past, thru the present, into the future. Beyond the transience of times, beyond the worth of time itself!
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