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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Of the Bengali quest for panacea…

Bengalis (those who speak the language Bengali) are a fine class. They have over years transferred ancient Bengali wisdom (not just any wisdom) on how to stay fit and healthy through generations. For example:

Wisdom 01: Eat fish, fish eyes and head especially and you will have a great eye sight.
Well-known fact: Bengalis are bespectacled more than people from other regions.

Wisdom 02: Eat bitter gourd. You will not be diabetic.
Well-known fact: Very high number of Bengalis have high blood sugar.

Wisdom 03: Drink a lot of water. Your kidneys will be fine.
Well-known facts: Considerable number of Bengalis suffer from kidney ailments.

Given this conundrum between wisdom and facts, after careful observations I have come to the conclusion that Bengalis consider medicines, doctors, hospitals and health conditions as consumer products. Go to any renowned hospital (not just any hospital) in any region of the country, you will find more Bengali patients than the rest.

Could be headache, stomachache, cough and cold – but Bengali patients are connoisseurs. They will go to the best hospitals for the best doctors for a mere cold.

In West Bengal you will find medical shops in every 500 metres. And on weekends you will find them thickly crowded. Just as you will find shopping malls crowded on weekends. It is as if the Bengalis come out of their houses on weekends in great numbers and head towards the local medicine shop to sample the new medicines on the racks, read their compositions and may be buy a few to test. They have great comradery with the medical shop owners and even crack a joke or two during their weekend morning stroll.  

Bengalis also have great respect for doctors. If there is a doctor in a Bengali family, then that family is held in high esteem. Of course there is a lot of pressure on that doctor too. He is supposed to know the best doctors for every single known or unknown condition and must somehow have a connection with that particular doctor so that any patient that knows his family is treated by that best doctor.

When it comes to Bengali doctors, there are predominantly two types of doctors:

  1. Doctors with a recognised medical degree.
  2. Doctors without any medical degrees. They are typically the family members and provide first level of triage
The first type of doctors is a very serious set of people. They typically, without fail, diagnose problems under one category: virus. And then irrespective of the severity of the condition, they almost always prescribe antibiotics. The higher they climb the medical ladder, the more serious these doctors get. They almost always wear a somber look, do not smile at any patient and mostly are surrounded by mini doctors. These mini doctors can range from the receptionist to the diagnostic to the junior doctor practicing under the senior doctor. If these mini doctors are also Bengali then only Lord can save you…the poor patient in search of panacea. The senior doctor will almost always communicate only through one of the mini doctors. The mini doctors will diagnose and treat you for diseases that you may get in near future.

One golden rule: you cannot ask questions.

The second type of doctors are no less difficult to deal with. They typically observe you when you get up in the morning, how many times have you been to the toilet in a day, your food consumption and your face. Based on the observation, they often predict the illness you are going to get ahead of time. They are like lighthouses….blinking to help the lost sea vessels find their shores in the dark. These doctors are typically present in every Bengali family (in the immediate family or in the extended one), but there is always one. And these doctors more often than not do practice homoeopathy.

One golden rule: you cannot question their diagnosis

Given the above observation of the Bengali medical landscape, over many years, I have come to the conclusion that the Bengalis are connoisseurs when it comes to medical issues. They have the money, and display great patience, resilience and grit in their quest for panacea. I salute them!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Of lives - their lives

She had a lively pair of eyes. Intelligent and inquisitive. Her hair done in braids and tied in a knot on top of her head. She was wearing a black knee length dress that caressed her body playfully. Chewing on a toothpick, she was efficiently calculating the money and delivering the order from the small window behind the bars. The place was cozy (read small), dark, plastic chairs arranged around plastic tables that were not in any order. There was pumping music and cigarette smoke in the air. She at times came out from behind the bars to settle orders personally with the customers or to give change. But most of the time, she was poised behind those bars, chewing on her toothpick and ardently following the movements and requests of her customers…whether it was that of buying a single cigarette from a packet or whether it was a cold bottle of beer, she managed it all with a smile. 

The customers are all male, and her business skills are deftly adapted to cater to the customer style.

I tend to believe, she is a provider.

She was wearing a zebra tshirt and a pair of jeans. Her walk had a swag, and her hips catering to the music as she moved from one table to another serving drinks and food as ordered. She was polite, inept with her English, but with a winning smile that more than made up for her English. I used sign language with her for our next order of Kilimanjaro (a Tanzanian beer), and she promptly served us. Her hips continued to move to the music that prompted me to leave my seat and join her for a few minutes to test my “shaking” skills in between the disorganized tables and chairs. She barely moved her feet, but her body moved to every single beat that the music had to offer. Her plaited hair settled on her head and her arms close to her torso as she allowed the music to play with her senses. I admired her dancing skills while my own two feet forcefully moved themselves to accommodate any movement of my body. She smiled, as I gave up and settled back on my chair after a while.

I tend to believe, she enjoys living life.

She had a white shawl wrapped around her. She seemed aloof yet interested in him. She was as if the morning cup of tea. The cup that knows that you are craving for it, and yet with great nonchalance the cup observes the tea being brewed, sieved, poured and sipped…bit by bit. He needed his morning sip, every moment, as he touched her face, her hair, her hand, her chest. He knew he would need her, again, the next evening. She knew he would need her, again, the next evening…the wait from the brewing to the sieving to the drinking...he will need her. But they both knew that soon the morning cup of tea will be forgotten as the day will progress between usual coffees and sodas and juices. She smiled at him teasing him with her eyes and rested her back on the wall, her purse on the plastic table next to the bottle of a Castle lager and her hands placed on his. He looked at her intently, the passion in his demeanor was as if nothing existed in that dinghy room amongst the scattered people, their lives and nicotine suffocation, but for her being, her white shawl and her aloofness. He engaged her in a conversation. It was important for him.

I tend to believe, they have lives, away from each other. But every evening in that local bar cum kitchen, they crave each other like you crave for the morning cup of tea.

She was wearing a yellow kanga. Her daughter was wearing yellow slacks. As the sea lashed down on their feet, they giggled and played with the salinity of life. Her yellow Kanga matched her hair ribbon. Braids tied neatly by a ribbon, the yellow setting sun to her back, her world paused at that moment with her daughter. The salty sea wind touched my face as I suddenly realized that I am fondly looking at the two, breaking the small waves and kicking sand in their moment together.

I tend to believe, that this mother and her daughter will always paint the world with a bright and shiny yellow!

Her stilettos clanked the glass staircases as she climbed her way to the rooftop bar. Her cocktail dress with a bare back and the beads that lay loosely on her breasts proclaimed her place in the society. Her weaved hair bounced as she held his hand and they both walked towards their corner on the top floor of a bar. A stunning view of the city, the latest music in air, expensive drinks pouring in, she had a pleased smile on her face as they settle down on their table. Her designer clutch next to his packet of Marlboro. Her ringed finger, next to his watched hand. They smile and they kiss. They order food and they swing. To the music. To the life. To the contentment it offers.

I tend to believe that they are content. 

*Moments from my visit to Tanzania.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Of scattered lifes...

Life lay scattered. For some reason. In front of me. It was your life.

Your dreams I did not know. You were meant to be back where you belong. You do not BELONG where you are now. You cannot. It is not fair. I did not know you well. But I saw you smile. It was bold and beautiful. It was full of life. I saw intelligence. In your eyes. The eyes were full of life too. Is that what you really wanted? To take the life off your eyes?  If that is not what you wanted, then why did it happen to you? Don’t they always say, you get what you want in life? Then why would you ever want that? Why would you ever want your beautiful smile and the spark in your eyes to leave forever? Who decides this? And how?

You had plans. I am sure. To watch a movie? To have some home cooked food, may be? To work harder? To raise a family? It was a usual office day. Wasn’t it? You had a late shift, I learned. And you were going back home. It was simple. Not complicated. Not difficult. You must have ridden on that road several times. You are a good biker. I heard. Today, you were not allowed to finish that journey. You loved mountains, hike them, trek them, I hear. Are you at the mountains now? Are you off to some mountain and will come down. Soon. And dazzle us with your smile.

I cannot come to think of how she is. Your mother. It hurts my head. It hurts my soul. It blinds my heart with a pain, I have rarely known to have existed. It wipes off the smile of my face. It wipes off feelings of my eyes. I cannot think. Of her, your mothers. Of myself. Of today.

I cannot some to think of how he is. The one behind the wheels. Of the truck. I do not know if it was his mistake. If it was not his mistake. Is his life scattered too? The life of those near to him. Are their lives scattered too? Why? Why do we have to have so many lives scattered? Why does this have to happen?

Why didn’t you leave a few minutes late? Why didn’t you leave a few minutes early? Why didn’t you stop for a moment to watch the sun rise? Why didn’t you take a moment more to swipe out of those office doors? You would have been here? Wouldn’t you? Why will I never have answers to my Whys? Why?

Life lay scattered. For some reason. In front of me. It was your life. But it scattered my life too. For an hour. May be for a day. Could be a few days. I haven’t written anything. For months. You scattered my silence. You scattered my getting used to mode. You scattered my comfort. We all lay scattered. All, who knew you. On some level. We lay scattered. Because it is not fair. It is not right. Because it is not LIFE. It cannot be. 

*I pray for her family. Strength and courage. And sanity. And justice.

Friday, March 6, 2015

I take back my wish...

I still remember the morning. I was in a car, driving towards the airport. To go to Andamans for my annual vacation. It was a winter morning of December, 2012. Something inside me broke that day. Because she died. I wanted her to be with us. To prove that they cannot break our spirit or our bodies.

3 years later, I take back my wish. What would’ve you witnessed if you were alive today?

1.       It has no remorse for what It and the other Its did with you. It concludes prophesying that all rape victims will be killed

2.       Thousands of rapists are alive, some in jails, some in their homes, some in their bedrooms, some teaching children

3.       The prime minister meets your parents on woman safety. His government meanwhile bans what "appear to encourage and incite violence against women." Well, what are they doing to ban violence against you or me? Meeting your parents?

4.       People I know feel “India’s daughters” need to dress decently. They are highly educated, respectable members of the society. It’s interview substantiates their beliefs

5.       100s of gang rapes since that fateful night. No social change. Ironically social media is abuzz.

6.       Convicts and lawyers were paid some say while others say that this is outrageous and culling down of basic freedom. Meanwhile, in the one hour that I watched the documentary in the comfort of my apartment at least two women were raped somewhere in India. And your courage did not change that statistics, even 3 years later.

Yes, I take back my wish. Because something else inside me broke again.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Of feeling safe

So how does one define feeling safe? Being in a safe region? Being in the arms of someone who makes you feel secure? Being in the home one grew up in? Being comfortable wherever they are? Being in a place that is protected?

This is not something that I have really thought about in details ever before. But this is something that has been a matter of great significance to me in the last few days.

I am on an assignment in a region that is considered "unsafe" by parameters defined by a certain world geographically and politically more powerful and secure. I do not know what these parameters are, I do not know how these "secure" worlds define the safety that people from this region feels. Or whether they think that the people of this region do not consider their lives precious enough to be protected, their families are more dispensable and their happiness and joy more compromisable than mine.

To ensure that I am safe and secure, I am put up in a highly secured housing complex that has electric fences running around it and manned by guards 24/7. I am driven to my work and to all my chores (including grocery shopping) by a company provided car. I am not allowed to take a walk outside my housing complex by myself and I am not allowed to travel outside the capital city. If I am in a shopping mall, I am accompanied by my driver always, pushing my shopping cart around or taking me to the ATM to withdraw money. I depend on the driver on the route he chooses to drive me to office or to drive me back. I am not allowed to drive myself around or take any form of public transport. If I need to travel to remote areas for project work, I need to take prior approvals and will mostly be driven by my company provided car.

I have never felt so unsafe in my whole life...

With all these security measures taken to keep me secure in this region for the duration of this project, why is it that I feel so unsafe?

I tried to analyse this observation further. I have done my bit of travelling. I have been to unknown places all by myself for the first time. I have been to precarious situations and managed to get myself out of those. I have travelled at night, by myself, in train compartments through foreign countries where I did not even understand the language. I have walked through dark lanes in some notorious parts of my country and have managed to come out unscathed. I have travelled at mid-night in NY tube with drunk hobos. Was I plain lucky all those times? Was I foolish to have done that? Did those experiences teach me nothing but the fact that I am an idiot to have found myself in those situations?

May be, yes. But may be, just may be, I survived all those situations because I allowed my natural instincts to settle in. My inherent sense of survival was sharp and vigilant and that made me feel confident and secure about my surroundings. I do not have that now. If today I am attacked on my way to office, I will never know how to get myself out of the situation. I will simply be dependent on my driver. 

So truely what makes someone feel secure? Not the fact that they are in the arms of their loved ones, but the fact that they know they have the option to protect themselves in their own way if required? Not the fact that they are living in a secured complex, but the fact that they know their surroundings and can find their ways out of it? Not the fact that they have financial security but the fact that they know how to use it?

I have always tried to look at life and the experiences that it offered as opportunities to know myself better, to appreciate this life that I have and to be a better person. This is also an experience that I have never had before. I would like to think that at the end of it I will get some positive learning out of it. But for now, I hope, I do not end up being paranoid so much so that I do not feel secure anymore once I am back in my natural surroundings and lose my basic instincts of survival.

Are people who live here not happy? Are the kids who go to school everyday or the youth who go to the discotheques do not feel secure? When is it that you feel safe? And when is it that you do not? Should one really allow someone else or some set of procedures to define their respective safety and security? What are your thoughts? Please share.

*I typically refrain from writing vivid personal experiences in my blog. But this is an observation that's been bugging me and my blog is the only place where I let out anything that affects me, so please bear with this ranting if you find yourself here.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

They sigh...

He rests his trembling hands on the table. The veins form a complex network of tributaries and distributaries. Some throb for seconds, uncontrollably. He tries to steady them. The satin tablecloth lies under his fingers, wrinkle-free, cold. He glances at the flowers in a small vase kept on the table, the cutlery and the dishes. He looks around; the tall pillars, the crystal chandeliers, the immaculately decorated chairs, the hushed conversations, the measured clinks of forks and spoons, the mild Bach, the suits and the designer clothes. He tries to steady his hand further.
A kid comes running to him. Plate full of scones, poached eggs, muffins and croissants. Places it in front of him. “Grandad, eat some.” He smiles nervously. The items on the plate look foreign to him. More plates pile up. Noodles, miso soup, muesli, salads. More family members join the table too. A lady in her well-kept clothes says, “Papaji eat some paratha”. He looks at the plate. Slices of paratha (Indian bread) that look quite dry and hard and a bowl of sambhar. He tries to tear one piece, dip it in sambhar and takes a bite. People around him start chatting, planning the day. The different attractions to visit, the time it will take, how best to organise.
He continues to chew. His hand trembles a bit, he takes a gulp of water and tries a second bite. He stares blankly at the chandelier while his mind wanders off. It was a bright sunny day if he remembers correctly. It was a Saturday too just like today. They were sitting outside the courtyard, chatting and having their morning milk. His daughter, who is sitting next to him now, was playing with her toys. There were hot parathas being served and pickles to go with those. He remembers the warmth of the plate in his hand against the cold of the cutlery now, he sighs at the measured movements around him and remembers his daughter throwing a ball at him that morning.
“Papajee you have dropped sambhar on your clothes”, his daughter admonishes him gently. He goes back to chewing the parathas, a nervous smile clings on to his lower lip. “These are hard and cold”, he thinks. Those around him are praising the breakfast spread in this 5-star hotel. They try to give him some muffin – the chocolate ones. He takes them hesitatingly. Out-of-place, too-late-in-the-day, he smiles with pride at his daughter’s enthusiasm to take him around the world, to good restaurants, good hotels, or to the movies. And then he looks away and sighs.
At what? I do not know. But I know he sighs. I know they sigh. The fathers and the mothers. They hide from their grown-up, accomplished children and they let go of a sigh. 
As a single child growing up in a middle-class joint family, I have seen my parents make many sacrifices of their small pleasures for the family’s well-being. These choices came easy to them. They sacrificed vacations, good clothes, good restaurants while we somehow in our sub-conscious minds kept a count of these all.
And then one day, all of a sudden, having dealt with our own devils in life, education, work and society, we-the children, now grown up feel this strong desire to give our parents the comfort and pleasures that they once gave up. We drag them to the restaurants and subject them to unfamiliar taste, we take them to the loud theatres and expect them to get used to the Dolby digital surround sound, in the winters of NY we take them to weekend Durga pujo or in the heat of Ajanta caves we drag them from one cave painting to the other. We send them tickets and put them in 20 hour long flights across oceans to show them the foreign land, to drive them around in the posh interiors of our automatics, we take them into the oceans and put them on city’s eyes, we make them sit through musicals and ask them to be comfortable with the soft hotel pillows. Doing this makes us feel good. Going through all this, at this age, are they really happy?
I do not have an answer. Parents to me are typically these unusual creatures who take immense pleasure and satisfaction at their children’s achievements and can do almost anything to keep their children happy and in the right path. 
But still, I am sure, they do sigh…they just hide it…but they do let go of a sigh…
Many of you reading this will recognise my dilemma. What do you think about this? What is your take on this?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Only if he knew how...

He could hear it approaching, slow and steady…He closed his eyes, braced his knees to his chest, and firmly placed the wet towel roll between his jaws. It started getting louder, the vision got blurred with streaks of red neon flashes as he placed himself on the bed and waited. Beads of sweat turned into patches of sweat as he shivered uncontrollably on his bed, trying hard not to clench his fist, bit his tongue or throw himself off the bed. He felt his skin tearing apart as the whips came crashing down on his tender arms, his eyes throbbed as the headache settled itself in between his eyebrows. He scratched at the wooden plank that guarded the windows, counted his breathes and waited for it to go away. It returned with more vigor as his father kept hitting him with a whip and his mother’s cries resonated the closed walls.

A traumatized childhood, watching his mother battered to death by a monster he called father are the reasons for his attacks tells his therapists. He does not know what the truth is anymore. The cries are true, so are the streaks of light across his retina, truth is the pain that numbs him from the whip lashes, everything else is just a blur! The faces, were they really his mother and father? He cannot recall anymore as he lies limp on the bed wet by his sweat, arms and legs disabled by the fury his own body unleashed on itself, senses torn by the flashes from the past. He will lie there for two hours, before he can get up and start his day.

A routine he now remembers for last 20 years. Decades of therapy, bottles of pills, years of confronting his past but the ghosts still hover around, they still come back with immaculate accuracy every fortnight, reap through his body, his senses and his soul. Once every 15 days, he knows that he needs to warn his colleagues, keep his calendar free, order his breakfast home, keep his phones charged and pay his bills ahead of time. He braces himself for what follows, endures the onslaught, and deals with his past on the days that follows. 

Disturbed sleep, nagging headache, frequent imbalance that follow every attack had helped him define his days and nights, hour by hour, for last 20 years after that fateful night when he was 10 years old and found himself towering over a limp body sprawled on the floor. His father shouted, “Get away from her, she is dead, your mother is dead”. He remembers a sudden hit that darkened his soul and his senses till he regained his consciousness in a hospital where they said his parents were missing. “She is dead”, he had murmured. Nobody listened to him then. He never saw them again. His school friends said that they were both dead. His foster parents said they were missing.

Over the last few years he had initiated many investigations to find the truth. Often jeopardizing his own safety, but all had ended in a naught. Finally, last evening he received a call from one of the prominent investigators that there might be some lead. Struggling his way out of the bed, he wondered how soon will he be capable again to get in touch with the investigator to know more…

Fifty days since that morning, two attacks later, he sat at the window of his room sipping his morning tea. His parents were in the living room talking. Several manhunts, thousands of miles later, he finally found his missing parents, he reconstructed his childhood memories; the assault of his father’s business partners on him and his parents, the physical threats and tortures that eventually led his parents to believe that he was safer without them. He sat there, sipping his tea as he looked outside and untied the knots and let go of a sigh that he had not, for a very very long while.

He stepped in. Closed his eyes, braced his knees to his chest, and firmly placed the wet towel roll between his jaws. He crawled into his bed and waited for it to unleash. Minutes turned to an hour, it did not. It was time. But nothing happened. He called his therapist. She told him it is probably because he now knows his past, he has untied the knots. He was, therefore, free from the torment. He looked at the telephone blankly. 

He stared at his bed, his towel roll, his medicines, his routine. He had planned his life around it. For twenty years he had learned from one fit to the next how to cope and how to survive. Without it, how, he wonders, will he be able to live his life normally? Only if he knew how...

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Of faith, belief and stories around you

* With much enthusiasm, she carried her bent body, crooked legs, thin arms, greying hair and tired wrinkles wrapped around a torn saree on a walking stick. She trailed behind her family members, but she carried on.

* His 4-year old son sat on his shoulders, eyes wide open, staring at the mammoth human conglomeration around him. At three in a chilly winter morning, the 4-year old was surprisingly wide awake.

* They were in their late twenties, walked holding hands, possibly making their livelihood doing menial labour jobs. Their wives followed them.

* They were members of an akhada (groups of religious sages), covered in ashes wielding their swords and spears, sporting their long hairs. They led the march, lost in their trance, playing their drums and had travelled from the foothills of the Himalayas to the mainland of India.

* While he had planned it for a while, the lens he carried, the cameras that hung from his neck and the backpack that sported his shoulders bore the mark of a long journey from some part of Europe.

The glow in their eyes warded off the darkness of the night, the warmth of their faith fought the winter chill. They were in Prayag, Allahabad, India, to observe Mahakumbh celebrated once in 12 years as the sun travels to the Aquarius sign. It is considered a very auspicious period in Hindu religion. On March 10, 2013, the Mahashivaratri day marking especially auspicious planetary alignments, close to 700,000 people gathered in Prayag to take a holy dip in the river Ganges. The legend has it that if someone takes a dip in the holy Ganges during this festival they are reborn as kings.

They travelled from far off, slept in tents, cooked their food on makeshift ovens, laughed with people they met at the festival, and sang through the night till the hour struck three when they started walking towards the holy river in the hope of achieving salvation for this life and the next. I was there simply to witness people’s faith, their endurance, their hope and it was an immensely humbling encounter for a keyboard-punching, pub-going, shopping mall-hopping, fast-cashing, armchair activist like me. I slept in the tents, ate delicious Indian vegetarian food meant to be cleansing for your body, heard their stories, walked for miles and at times just stopped and gaped at the outburst of colours as thousands of Indian women in their colourful sarees queued up at the ghats (shores) of the Ganges for their turns to take a dip.

Travelling to me is an opportunity to watch people and cultures, to learn from each culture, to enrich my existence by borrowing from theirs, to feel the rush and marvel at the unknown. Being an Indian, born and brought up in India, it took me over 35 years to finally make a 2000 kilometres trip to Prayag to witness the Mahakumbh festival. And it was, beyond question, one of the most enriching travel experiences that I have had so far.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

It happened one afternoon...

She has been walking for hours now in search of life. With no cars on the road, or a gas station or even a tavern in the vicinity, the winding road next to the thick forest looms as a threat in front of her. It's especially hot for this time of the year.

She knew the moment her car broke down, that it's going to be a long day. "Hello...hello...can you hear me?", the cell phone breaks down. What a surpirse! She curses herself for not charging it. "May be I can use the car charger for the time being..." she wonders. "Nope, the battery is down...no luck there"! "What a deserted road", she panics, "how will I ever get out of here!" The road stretches in front of her like a lazy Sunday newspaper on a verandah full of sunlight...one must spend hours exploring every inch of the newspaper, there is no way out of it. The blue skies, the dry sun taunt her ruthlessly.

The day started off as usual, with her morning alarm snoozed thrice before she gave up and got dressed. The Prada handbag, the Gucci shoes and the Burberry walked out of the apartment with her in great precision. Her day looked fine too, couple of meetings in the morning, one lunch appointment and one late afternoon presentation. She decided to take the presentation off the count, no one listens after 3 PM anyways, so it was a pretty relaxed day ahead for her.

"What made me take the detour from the Interstate?" she wondered. It was her regular drive of 15 miles to the office, why did she take that turn? The trees suddenly grew closer and closer. They covered the path as she tried to walk further down the road in search of life. They started talking amongst themselves, "I am gonna take her", one said, while another one brushed its branches against her mascared face and smiled as she grimaced in pain. They conspired to pull her off from the ground to the top and then smash her off to the ground while the sun decided to burn her down. They poked her, the rocks came on her way and they threw her off her feet.

She got up, brushed off the dust and walked ahead steadfast, "I was walking on a road, how am I on this trail now? Why can't I see anyone?" she kept wondering. The wind whispered and decided on their next move. The storm came gushing by, dust, dry leaves, sand, they all blinded her, her Burberry torn, her Gucci dirty, she trudged along. They conspired, the wind, the sun and the trees. They all planned to take her down. With a force that she had never felt before, she found herself being heralded to the ground, broken twigs punctured her face, red spots blotted her Burberry,

She decided to retrace her path back to the car. One tiny step at a time, she dragged her thirsty, hungry, injured self back to the car. She figured, may be some other car will pass by and she can stop that for help. The steps that she took so callously away from the car are now the ones that she needs to remember, follow and reach her destination. She cursed those who did not respond to her many pleas, "what kind of people are they? what's wrong?"

Through the clearing she could see her car, there were few other cars around, and people have come out of their cars. "Finally, finally, I will be okay!" she exclaimed in joy! The last few steps were easy to take, she rushed to the gathering and pushed and shoved her way through. They failed to notice her. "this is my car, she exclaimed, I need help, I need water, I need rest...oh thank god! you all are here..." her voice trailed off.

The broken glasses had red spots too she noted, the Burberry was torn here too she saw. She found dust all over the Gucci, even a heel broken. The car looks wrecked,she remembers leaving it in perfect condition!! Who did that to her car? And who are they trying to take out of the car? She is right here, "Hey help me, idiots!" She shouts. Inch by inch they drag the lifeless body out of the car...she watches in great despair as her voice trails off and her eyes stare at her own body, limp, cold, red, broken and distraught.

The door bell rings. Once. Twice. She turns back. The dry winter day slowly breaks down into pieces on the carpet as she walks towards the door. The sweat dries up fast as she tries to reharse the smile and the lunch menu in her mind. One last look at the fast moving Interstate 20 outside her window as it takes away with it the car, the long walk, the Prada, the thick forest and the dry leaves...Tomorrow she will visit the depths of the Pacific she tells herself...as her 6-year old daughter walks in.

Anyone can weave a story, be a story teller, be a poet, be a dreamer...anyone can...all one needs are some windows, some faraway trees, some lonely path winding away to the distance in their minds...just some windows in their minds...and they all have a story to tell...she knows, with a smile.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Of packing and unpacking a lifetime...

I know this is going to be a controversial topic, way more controversial opinion that I have ever put down in the expressionless cyberspace. But it's been nudging me for a while to be explored and I finally am taking the plunge. Before I forge ahead with my blabber, I really want to appeal to the unfortunate folks who are actually reading this piece that I am not being judgmental  nor am I trying to paint every story using one brush, I am, but, merely curious to comprehend how this certain aspect of human relationships, that I am about to write, works. Now that I have made enough disclaimers, let me get to the point.

I have been very fortunate in my life to have had known people from different backgrounds, having weird lifestyles, making unconventional choices, courageous and chivalrous people who are living life to the fullest and some of them have been truly kind enough to accept me as a part of their lives, to allow me to witness their lives and learn from them. It is from their lives that I have drawn inspiration.

Couple of years back when I came out of my marriage, I looked back and thought that's the best I had lived, most I had loved someone, most I had fought with someone and had been as intimate as I can ever be with anyone. We knew each other for over 17 years, and that seemed like a lifetime of experience for me, good enough for one life, even after considering the high life expectancy these days.

However, soon I realised that that's not enough at all. I have half of my lifetime ahead of me, and my near and dear ones, especially my mother insisted that I get married again. That demand literally translated to me as follows: I need to pack my likes, dislikes, my nuances, my mood swings, my occasional nicotine, my love for onion, my burps and other bodily decibels, my unwanted hair growth or hair loss and my bad temper, my kohl eyes, my passion for travel, my love for life, my fierce independence and my “mild” snoring, pack all of that and put those in someone else's cupboard, toilet, bed and living room, again, in the same lifetime.

Now that is a challenge for me. How do I do that? How can I pack and unpack myself in front of someone else? Again? More importantly, this time around I need to do it in superfast speed. I do not have 17 years to slowly unpack. I have merely couple of more years to unleash a lifelong of irritable existence syndromes on to an unsuspecting soul and expect that person to give me a lifetime commitment of care and comfort, that's what my near and dear ones think I need. Hmmm...so if I am not comfortable, then what do I do? I unpack myself in parts? I always wait before producing decibels? For the rest of my life? I hide the onion in a Prada purse and eat it alone and then use Listerine? I do not share my stupidest fears and my craziest dreams? Or is it that I get into a relationship and then hope like the Bollywood movies that love/comfort will blossom someday and then I will eat my onions in front of him?

This brings me to the controversial question, finally. How does one do it? Second time around? I can understand when someone has come out of a brief marriage, an abusive marriage, a marriage that scarred them...they need healing and they can very well find their healing and their comfort in someone else. But I belong to the old school, where it takes a while to really love someone and be comfortable with their decibel-producing capabilities. How can that be achieved in super-fast speed? And believe me it is super-fast!! My mother became tech-savvy, bought herself a tab and opened up an online account for me in one of the matrimonial sites. And I have actually been told off by some of those “expressing interests” because of my ‘slow’ response. I am sure, they are all running against time, at my age and need to find that special someone and their special nuances at their earliest.

It seems impossible and unfathomable for me to really need someone so desperately in my life, that at this age and stage of my life I am ready to hide my onion and eat it later followed by a Listerine wash. So going back to the original question, how does one do it? What is it that makes them feel that it is okay to unpack themselves, share a bed for the rest of their lives with someone, someone whom they definitely do not know as well as they did the first time around? How is it that one finds comfort in fast-forwarding information download of more than three decades on to someone and at the same time process their information all in less than a year? What broadband do they use?

Jokes apart, I admire people living life to the fullest, taking their chances and fighting their odds. But I am curious to know how do they deal with this particular quandary, if they face one such? I am sure those of you who are reading my blog, have known people around you who have had similar experiences, what were your observations? Even if you haven't, what are your thoughts given a situation like this?