How are you?
Good? Bad? If you are neither, you are most probably dead. Life is dichotomous and you need it to be for it to have depth. Depth, after all, is a play of contrasting lights and shades. January and February were so good. My physical and psychical states were getting in sync. It was all bordering on euphoria. Well, at least it was till March happened. March always happens.
When I was in school and college, March was synonymous with those nerve racking final examinations. Then you grow up and they come up with budgets and you have to do grown-up things like worry about the economy. Then your workplaces want to appraise your performance and you have to craft lies so that you can get good ratings, so that you can get undeserved pay hikes so that you can buy meaningless stuff which has become more expensive because economy is bad. And because you worried and passed your exams, you are stuck in jobs you don’t care about. In moments of despair, you realize that you just wanted to be a poet on a footpath but had you been one, you would have most probably died. Sometimes, survival depends upon how well you can insulate yourself from your dreams.
And rarely, while you are ravelling and revelling in all of these life’s ironies, sometimes, March puts a pause button. It did to me – in the form of the most severe of eye infections ever contracted by anyone in March.
The only good thing about intense physical pain is that it leaves no memory of it behind. So, as I sit here two months later typing this, I don’t really have a clear recollection of what transpired in the month of March that put me out of action for such a long time. Just that it was a glimpse of the darkness, the darkness millions suffer through all their lives. In that moment of weakness, induced by intense pain and loss of sight, I decided I just cannot live like this. If I go blind, I must die. A friend, more shaken by my proclamation than she was earlier by my swollen face, promptly transported me to a doctor.
Doctor said, “Oh my God!” Doctors must be banned from saying that.
It should be a part of their doctor-oath or something. Nothing has ever scared the already dimming lights out of me than that. I abandoned that doctor instantly and found another one who assured me that loss of vision is quite a normal consequence for as intense an infection as I had. He put me on some magic meds and it is on the mend now. I have never been more grateful for my highly myopic eyesight and I continue to be everyday.
Of course, I had to donate my eyes after all this. How can’t I? My mother gave me a lot of grief about this. She does not like me talking about death or anything related to it. Quite contrary for a person who has invoked the threat of ‘ one day I will die and then etc. etc.’ a lot many times. My sister, when I informed her that I am nominating her to take care of the eventual donation, casually said,”I don’t know, I might be in Paris. May not be able to make it to your funeral in time for that”. No wonder my mother and sister don’t get along with each other.
So, I may have major or minor vision problems all my life, big deal! As long as we can see, we should make an effort to see – people, places and all these wonderful things around us.
When my eyes got ok, I re-watched these two beautiful movies about loss of eyesight – ‘Shwaas’ and ‘Hollywood ending’– movies on loss of eyesight, permanent and temporary – one hilarious and one poignantly sad.
Life, though difficult, is richer by contrast.
This is December speeding by, almost sped. The most definitive of all months.
I will write more often next year, I say this every year end. This is how one avoids one’s fate, by postponing it. It has been a really mixed year, marked by failures and triumphs and angst. I know exactly the type of chocolates my life’s box is filled with, the bittersweet dark ones, and I seem to relish them the most. Some people don’t want to be content lest they become complacent, and I seem to be one of them.
I thought of doing this again which I had done last to last year, and isn’t it a little bit depressing how some things don’t change even after two years? Stand still or at ease, you end up standing at the same spot.
I am telling you now, 2013 can’t come fast enough. Hope you have a great one!
1. What did you do in 2012 that you’d never done before?
I studied, and am studying, western philosophy. Sometimes it feels like my brain is being peeled and there won’t be any left. Mostly it feels like random cartoon lightbulbs are going on on top of my head.
2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
3. What would you like to have in 2013 that you lacked in 2012?
The ability to make the right career choice for myself. (When will this answer change?)
4. What dates from 2012 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
One extremely horrible date. A few funny-in-retrospect. They told me to try matrimonial sites and I did, and well, even if it has all been in vain, it at least makes for good stories. Someday, I may write a book titled ‘ How I never met my husband who I wasn’t looking for.’
5. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I learnt how to swim! Like a pro! Three strokes out of four done! Also, it’s like a booster, whenever I get underconfident about something, I say to myself, ‘Hey girl! It took you three years but finally you learnt how to swim! Give yourself three years and you can accomplish anything’.
6. What was your biggest failure?
I didn’t exercise at all.
7. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I can’t sleep well. At nights. Does that count?
8. What was the best thing you bought?
This book called ‘Nausea’. Sartre and I are in love.
9. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Mine. Fewer fights. Less guilt.
10. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
People, at times. They make too much unnecessary noise, don’t they?
11. Where did most of your money go?
Travelling. Worth every penny.
12. What did you get really excited about?
TV shows. The possibilities of interesting conversations.
13. What song will always remind you of 2012?
I listened to a lot of jazz this year.
14. Compared to this time last year, are you:
– happier or sadder? I don’t know.
– thinner or fatter? Fatter.
– richer or poorer? Richer.
15. What do you wish you’d done more of?
16. What do you wish you’d done less of?
17. Did you fall in love in 2012?
18. What were your favorite TV programs?
Girls. Mad Men. Breaking Bad. Homeland. 30 Rock. The Big Bang Theory.
19. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I don’t hate anyone any year..
20. What was the best book you read?
The doors of perception. The age of reason. Nausea. Cat’s cradle.
21. What was your greatest musical discovery?
A lot of jazz artists.
22. What did you want and get?
23. What did you want and not get?
Can’t think of anything.
24. What was your favorite film of this year?
I didn’t watch movies this year!
25. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 30, was quite depressed. Went on a holiday, spent a lot of time with family and friends, nothing helped. I still weep for my youth sometimes.
26. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
If I enjoyed my job.
27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?
A lot of leggings with dress shirts. Not caring a shit if my trousers are too snuggy at my ass.
28. What kept you sane?
29. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
The character of ‘Peggy Olson’ on ‘Mad men’.
30. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2012.
It was many years ago, and it was a long train journey with fifteen friends. It was cold and the train wasn’t air-conditioned and the windows wouldn’t shut well. We would be huddled in shawls and blankets, chain-sipping tea cups, oblivious to the world. To kill time, we would have what-if conversations. Like, what is the one thing you would want to do today if you were to die tomorrow?
My answer to that question made everyone cringe because I answered that I wanted to experience childbirth. In early college days, when you can sky-dive and go on a cruise and see a Broadway show and meet Sachin Tendulkar maybe, this isn’t anyone’s answer to that question.
I don’t know what my answer would be today, because I have a million aspirations now, and the sheer effort to prioritize them would make me want to do nothing more than sleep restfully for eight hours straight. I have outgrown what-ifs and the lists and the resolutions and I am happy letting life pass by as it wants because well, it just does anyway, everything notwithstanding.
But five years ago, I did make lists, lots of them. There were weekly lists and daily to-do timetables and New Year lists and birthday resolutions. Here’s one of them (and funnily, edited too, somewhere along the years).
The list: 1. Get your name in print (does this blog count? ) 2. Get a tattoo (I have. It says ‘let it be’. I don’t know why a tattoo was on the list) 3. Charity day (Not done) 4. Backpack alone to somewhere (I have travelled alone a lot, it counts) 5. Sing in front of an audience (Nope) 6. Learn to swim (oh yes! It has been the biggest accomplishment of my adult life) 7. Have a baby (postpone) 8. Dance like no one is watching (multiple times, it’s damn overrated. Believe me, you want people to see, you want them to applaud, you always want witnesses for your accomplishments).
I want to ponder at entry no. 7.
I turned 30 sometime last week. It was that clichéd catastrophic event, as all the already thirty people had warned me it will be. Whether you are an accomplished career person, or a happily married settled person or a still wandering one like me, any age milestone (post 21 I guess) is difficult to accept, partly because most of my generation doesn’t want to grow up.
The present seems so full of possibilities that responsibilities of the future scare me. Growing old scares me because my parents are growing older. Settling for a marriage scares me because I had wanted to fall in love first. Waiting to fall in love scares me because I had wanted to have a baby someday. Even wanting to have a baby scares me now because I feel I have accomplished too little in life to devote a big chunk of my life to another person. Call it survival if you will, but three decades on this planet has made me a real selfish person.
I didn’t celebrate in a big way, just escaped to be on the road to another new city. My mother, who suffers from the chronic hindi-soap-opera-dramatics called in and said, “I know you feel old and don’t want to celebrate, but till your mother is alive you are celebrated every single day.”
Maybe that’s why people have kids, so that they have a reason to celebrate always.
And I hope that I will someday have that too, however cringe-worthy it still sounds.
This blog has been held hostage by its author’s desire to write that ‘perfect’ prose. She has held onto drafts as one holds onto crisp new currency notes, like souvenirs not earned just right.
Let her live in her chimerical beliefs of perfect proses and rhymed verses and awed readers. Meanwhile, you and I shall be boring and discuss the books we have been reading this year.
When this year started, I vowed I will expand my genre of reading and diversify into reading a bit of philosophy. So I got this introductory guide on Nietzsche–
A word of advice – don’t begin your journey through philosophy with Nietzsche – especially if you are already a non-believer in absolute truths, a person of strong aspirations, an individualist with the will to rule. You become even more of a person you already were and mostly a pain in the ass of everyone, including yourself. And there is no looking back. I think he has already left an indelible mark on my brain and if I act like a jerk sometimes, at least there is one more person to blame.
I went onto read some of ‘philosophical fiction’ – Camus’s ‘the outsider’, Kundera’s ‘the unbearable lightness of being’ and Sartre’s ‘nausea’.
‘Nausea’ is the worst best book I have ever read. That book held me by my head in the deepest end of the clear blue pool, kept my head dunked in water all the time so I couldn’t breathe, and I had to push up to catch those precious moments of relief-breaths before it dunked me again. It felt most alive, it felt the worst. I am dying to read it again, after a few years maybe, after I grow up a little more.
I immediately bought ‘the age of reason’ and after mustering courage to delve into Sartre again, I am reading it these days. I just wish I can go back in time and un-read Sartre. It gets too intense at times, makes you feel and think a lot. You exist. And it’s a lot to deal with especially if you are an escapist in general.
To get over ‘Nausea’, I had to re-read two ‘Wodehouses’ (I have read all. They are my comfort books). I always keep Mr. Wodehouse handy, a comforting balm for all my heartaches.
I had ‘middlesex’ on my shelf for quite some time but never got around to reading it. Instead, I bought and read ‘The marriage plot’ byJeffrey Eugenides. It’s a bulky but breezy read and every literature lover will end up loving it, even if just to compare notes. All the time I was reading this book, I kept imagining Madeleine as being played by Zooey Deschanel. TV has clearly messed up my head.
Finally, I have discovered a tiny local library called ‘Just Books’ that is making most of my reading dreams come true. I always want to own books I read but a library gives you room to experiment with your reading. So, I borrowed Mahesh Dattani’s collection of plays but could only read ‘Thirty Days in September’. It is a moving play but to enjoy a play, you need more imagination. You have to create that set in your head, be aware of your characters beforehand. It’s like meeting people after you have checked them out on facebook, you sort of know them already albeit superficially. It’s not half as fun.
Though that did not stop me in any way to buy Arthur Miller’s classic “Death of a Salesman”. It’s adorning my bookshelf. I am yet to read it.
If you are even half as much a fan of Tina Fey as I am, you have to read ‘Bossypants’. It’s smart and funny, just like her (of course it would be, it’s a memoir!) I got to read an actual TV script in that book, so that was like an icing on the cake for me. I haven’t read many but of all I have, this is the second best memoir that I have ever read (the first being Angela’s ashes by Frank McCourt).
Since Booker Prize for 2012 is going to be announced soon, I got around reading the winner of last year – ‘the sense of an ending’. I don’t even know why I still attempt to read and like these prize winners, especially Booker ones. Barring a few, they often are pedantic, a little distant, and this one made me refer to the dictionary more than I like while reading a book (which is never). But whatever said, you have to love the humor of British authors, even if it’s a tad dark. There is a letter somewhere midway of this book, a sort of plot-revealatory letter, and it made me laugh for five minutes straight, which bodes well for any book I am trying hard to like.
I am quite happy with my reading this year, considering the amount of TV I watch. For the next few months, I will be mostly re-reading a few books (yes, I do that!), raiding my book shelf for a few new ones and reading every single word Sartre ever wrote. Every reader has an author which makes her feel most vulnerable and yet is hard to put down, and mine is Jean-Paul Sartre. I won’t ever be same as the reader I was.
It was an impulsive decision to cap that pen for a while (not that I had a ‘writer’s block’ or anything. That only afflicts those who write for a living). I slammed shut the blogosphere door, kept my journals in cupboards, scrambled my words with my eggs and ate them every morning.
It was a foolish thing to do.
For a person who has this unrelenting urge to express herself, not writing leads to too much talking. Too- much -talking.
I have hogged on every conversation in the past two months, made friends yawn at dinner parties, disrupted my own meager art time I get with this artist, bent ears and made my jaw hurt. People I know now know so much about me that they can all precisely write my biographies, just that they would want to kill me in chapter 2. I have even lost track of degrees of exaggerations I spin on stories, and now my mind is this porous thing where realities and fabrications are mingled in cesspools. Be it a lesson to you – Too much talking never did anybody good.
But what can I say, it was summer. Summer always puts me in an excellent, chirpy mood. The sunshine really does get into my head. It is the only time in the entire year when I feel absolutely and positively alive. I don’t care if it’s forty-two degrees and I have a noisy fan, I don’t care if I get sunburns , I don’t care if I sweat like a pig, I just love me in summers.
And a good summer it was. I danced and I swam and I ate mango dollies till my brain froze. I listened to jazz while I lay awake on a cold marble floor and counted the stars stuck on my ceiling. I mastered the art of taking a bath with just one bucketful of water. I wore my cracked, dark sunglasses and the world still appeared bright and flawless.
I wish I could condense my summer mood in a vial and carry it around like a lucky charm. Because rains wash everything away. Clean slate. Who wants? Not me!
Now, There is water in my summer burrow. It already has been raining and cold and windy. This week, I have woken up in a room where no sunlight has filtered in. And I have begun to write, huddled in the corner of my bed, hoping someone, somewhere is still midst summer and is reading this and will send some warmth my way.
So, how have you been?
I have been short and stout since I was born, and ever since I grew up from being a little teapot, I have to take great care to remain plump and not become obese. It has not been easy. I suffer from the worst possible disorder that can hinder physical fitness – the lack of willpower.
Broad’s fitness timeline:
My father bought me skipping ropes one a dozen and they went straight to the bin.
Then he got me a weighing scale and it found home on top of a very tall cupboard (a much taller sister assisted). It still rests there.
I cycled my way to and fro school and that made me hungrier.
I went for walks in the neighborhood park but it had a tiny library inside and well, at least I walked to the park.
Then my parents thought if they were to be mean, say a few negative things about my body, the hurt I might feel may motivate me to lose weight. They must have forgotten how hurt works for uber sensitive people – it makes them more sensitive plus defensive. They just stop caring. I just did.
(Somewhere the shards of those barbs created a few holes in my self-esteem and I have been trying since then to fill those holes. Cue to therapist – mommy-daddy issues).
When I moved out of the house and to my college, I was surrounded by the most beautiful women. They had real waists where they tucked in their shirts inside their pants. That inspired me and I discovered gyms.
But it was short-lived. I realized that treadmill is the most lonely place in the entire world. Also, all that walking doesn’t take you anywhere.
I did yoga for an year under the guidance of a teacher who was the most caring and patient ever. I am not an easy student, I tend to throw tantrums. He weathered it all and encouraged me still. I loved power yoga exercises but would hate doing the slow breathing ones. Once, I fell asleep during one of the meditative sessions. He jokingly said, “You have achieved nirvana already”. We both decided I should take a break and return when I feel like doing all of it in the way it has to be done.
My ex-boss is one of the more amazing women I will ever meet. She introduced me to dance classes, forced a two-left-feet me to join them and I did that for two years. I stopped last year-end because there are only these many dance classes you can go to and still not be able to dance.
(In any stage show, there might be an idiot somewhere at the back who misses a step. Every single time, that idiot was me. And I don’t exaggerate, I have it all on videos).
Last month I joined aerobics but I just wasn’t able to get up in the mornings. I am a night owl and those super fast crowded aerobics classes need vigilance to distinguish ‘right’ from ‘left’ so that one doesn’t bump into people. I became the much frowned upon random variable. I haven’t quit it yet. Every now and then, I get a call from one of the instructors, at 7 in the morning, asking me to be up and about and come for the class. Every now and then, I feel guilty and go.
I am considering artistic yoga these days. And then I will exhaust all my exercise options.
Today evening, I was lying on my stomach, with head jutting out, sobbing. I realized my tears were falling like raindrops too, not touching my cheeks. I remembered you. You didn’t even had to lie face-down for that. Your super big eyes and lack of cheekbones made your eyes rain whenever you cried. That’s why your parents named you ‘Rainy’. At least that’s the story you told me, during one of your sob fests. After that, whenever you cried, which was often, I would just sit there quietly, watching your teardrops fall, not roll down your no-cheeks. It was fascinating.
No one cried that much those days, at least not in front of the people. Sixteen is hardly the age to be bawling your eyes out. One needed to cry in other ways, like bunking school or talking about sex on sly. But you were straight out of Kerela into the heart of north, you knew little English and your career was already decided for/by you – you were to become a nun. You had left your home, parents, siblings for good. You had to just learn a little bit more English, pass a mere formal grade and the school took you in because it was supposed to, being a catholic school.
I was assigned to help you with English which I tried to, but it was a tall order for both of us. The first time I saw you cry was when a test paper was returned and you brought it to me to know what the teacher had scrawled all over in that merciless red ink.
An all-caps “What is the relevance of this?” over your timid “The rabbit cut grass with teeth”. It was a test on Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, Act II.
It dawned on me then how cruel and unfair it all has been for you and why you needed to cry with actual tears.
You left after a few months, still missing prepositions everywhere.
You must be a well-respected woman now, living a life of duty and impacting many lives. I hope you are still able to cry with actual tears whenever you need to. And I hope your tears still fall like raindrops.