Monday, December 6, 2010

I wither without the other

I've been doing a lot of thinking. Basically reflecting on the things I've learned the past year. I've done my bit of exploration. I've met people, heard them, learned from them too. Listening to some, I have learned that too is a way, a path. My path doesn't have to be that however exciting it may sound at that moment. My path maybe different. But our paths have crossed and that is a good thing. I also learned a lot of things about me. I learned that I am comfortable in expressing and loving, at the same time being silent and detached. I learned that I have already made my choice to love. To love life, to love the moment, to love those around. And as I explored the terrains of the human mind and it's different possibilities, I learned that some truths are what drives me forward more than others: steadfast friendship, clear thought, patience, candour, compassion, self-control. These are the sinews and ligaments of what makes my heart beat stronger. I learned that as much as I crave for some 'me' time, I also wither without the other. As long as I am human, I wither without community. So it as much about me as it about you. For you and I are from the One.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sometimes Clichés Are So Untrue

I remember once while writing something, I used a clichéd sentence. I followed the sentence with another adage: clichés are oft repeated truths. The latter sentence was me at my defensive best. I have done this several times while talking to people, comforting people, reassuring people, I have used my own fair share of clichés. Like, time will heal, the weight of our cross will never be heavier than us, If you love, let it go...if it’s meant to be it will come back. Lines like this. But each time I have used it or said it or tweaked it a bit, I have always believed it and meant it. All of it was true and genuine under most circumstances. But sometimes life just proves otherwise. Some clichés are untrue. Like the time I told a dear friend,“ This sorrow/loss will strengthen you dear, for something in the future.”, Just when I heard myself say it then, I knew there was something wrong, it didn’t convince me either. The sentence lacked the lustre of my otherwise steadfast faith in oft repeated truths aka clichés. But it was too late the words had already left my tongue and it floated in the air and placed itself on her ear. She looked up at me. I saw it in her eyes that I had blundered in the name of solace. She looked at me with eyes wrought with disappointment, “you are my friend, and you still don’t understand, do you?”
Zerene, my friend was a dedicated gynaecologist who was rewarded with an enviable practice and nearly perfect record of happy patients to her list. But that was no surprise to us. For she never compromised on her work or her dedication. She wore her heart on her sleeves for the ‘girls’, like she called them. She almost became their mothers. She had the uncanny ability to see them, the girls as her own. That was her professionalism. Contrary to her friend’s advice “Zerene detach yourself from the moment, be professional.”
Like every doctor who at some point in their practice reaches a state of Buddha, like I would like to call it. Her enlightenment did come as well. As a rude shock and the toughest reality check; that of losing one her ‘girls’. Just like that. Not even in the labour room, or in operation theatre. Just like that, after dinner and after quietly relishing some payasam her husband brought her. They called it embolism.
{(Amniotic fluid embolism AFE) is a rare and incompletely understood obstetric emergency in which amniotic fluid, foetal cells, hair, or other debris enters the mother's blood stream via the placental bed of the uterus and triggers an allergic reaction. This reaction then results in cardio respiratory (heart and lung) collapse and coagulopathy}
It didn’t take much time or large quantities of fluid, I am told. Everything happened in minutes and in teeny weenie measure trickling into her bloodstream, for no reason other than just like that. By the time Zerene arrived, it had been minutes that the girl’s heart had stopped beating. But Zerene quickly checked for the foetal heartbeat. The baby was alive and then and there Zerene took the baby out. The baby is well and ready to be fed. But there is no mother.
She did everything she could possibly do. Like Faizal always says. She is at her best during a crisis. Working efficiently. It usually takes few days for it to sink in. But this time Zerene just withdrew. For the next day the girl’s husband came to see her to apologise for his entire family, if in case anyone of them had unknowingly accused her of anything. Also to thank her for saving the baby in time. Zerene just remained emotionless. I knew that look. I knew it was the calm before the storm. So I quickly went to her and she collapsed to a heap. Her sense of loss was deep. She kept replaying the entire day, entire week, if somewhere she could’ve done something differently. She wondered if she should’ve tried more at resuscitating her girl. She wondered if she made right choice of going for the baby than spending more effort on the mother. She played the reel again and again and again. It was painful to watch. That was when I told her, “ Zerene, take this as something to strengthen you.” A cliché, like the several I have used before. But Zerene from the depth of the abyss, I thought she was pushing herself into. I heard her talk as if she was crying out from a deep well. Weak but firm. “This does not strengthen me Shalini. This weakens me. I am resigned now. I am resigned to the fact that as a doctor, I am just hands. He is in charge of giving and taking away. I am nothing.” And then she added, “ I exalt in my weakness.”
So that day I learned a new truth. Some things weaken you. And in being weak there is strength. So let it be.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Book That He Was

He was like a book I picked up to read. An interesting book! The kind of book of that’s not just a page turner but holds a lesson at every turn. After each chapter I would evoke the words and ravish it for its richness. The words weaved an entire world of meaning. Sometimes the words helped to patch and heal. Sometimes it admonished and shook. Sometimes it shocked and pushed. Sometimes it was just a whole lot of nonsense. Nevertheless the book made a difference to my life as I knew it. But what made him more like my favourite book was; the book was just there to enrich me.To augment the one who picked it up. The book did not expect to be filled in. The pages were already complete. I didn’t have to contribute. I was not expected to. I was not guilty of not having to give back for he was a book. A book, which only spoke to you when you picked it up to read it.

As Random As That!

Some people come into your life like a random idea. A stray thought. Or as arbitrarily as an event you witnessed on an ordinary day when you just happened to step out of the house to buy groceries.
For some reason, they get stuck in your psyche and they stay close to you. Not that you spend a lot of time with them, rather the profound influence their presence exudes. I once met one such person a long time ago when I was in college. His name was Abhilash. We met once twice or thrice maybe even more. Every time we met we spoke a lot to each other. We kind of hit it off very well. Perhaps if there was internet and email and chat those days we would’ve met more often and gotten to know each other better. We would’ve had a better grasp of those details we need to know to presume we know someone well. But I knew nothing about Abhilash. I didn’t know that he was an only child. I didn’t know he loved to go for long bike rides. But I knew Abhilash was a voracious reader. I knew Abhilash was sensitive to those around him. I knew Abhilash had the ability to seek out from a crowd that person he wouldn’t mind calling a friend. And he honoured me with that privilege.
After college I didn’t hear from him. Until one day I saw his face in the obituary. He had passed away in a road accident on the way back from Goa during one of his favourite pass times: long bike rides. The obituary was a tribute from kith and kin on his first death anniversary. Today, after so many years, I finally write about him. I haven’t mourned his passing on. But I thank God, for him. Abhilash, I know you’re happy now. And that gives me so much peace.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

To find beauty in things bizarre

I find beauty in an overturned stone, which has crawling earthworms underneath. Beside the moss covered rocks, these onion pink wriggly things covered in rich dark soil looks ethereal. I told this once to a friend I loved. She looked at me strangely. She looked worried and scared and full of pity. I realised my eye for the uncanny, frightened her. For a minute out there in the outdoors she must have thought I was treading the fine line that separates the sane from the insane. That is when I learned one of life’s fine lessons. There is no point in frightening those you love with the fantastic. It is important for you and for those around you that they understand. Their fear comes from lack of understanding. Don’t shove your unusual on their faces. Ease your truths to them...they will come around it. Sooner than you realise.Till then understand that some truths are better inside you.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Aging gracefully is another type of personal growth

Aging gracefully is another type of personal growth
I recall sitting in the last row of a RT meeting when it suddenly dawned on me why one member of the all-male group looked so different. Every man was between the ages of 28 to at least 45 years old. The other heads were jet black or honey brown or salt and pepper or hardly any hair or some other artificial tint. A White Shirt Man stood out from the crowd. He packed a loaded bundle of white hair. A lean man with a salt and pepper beard, I couldn’t help gazing at him. Something you could freely indulge in: gazing, staring, admiring or snigger or be amused at, when you’re a back bencher and furthermore not a member of the group.
Anyway, back to the Man in White. He was fairly above 40, must be at least 45. But there was something the Man in White exuded; grace some would call it. Vivacious spirit perhaps but more than anything there was something about him I wished his younger counterparts could pretty much emulate.
It is no sin to dye one's hair. It is just one of many ways we adorn ourselves. But the sight of a dozen men with hair colours impossible for human beings (and perhaps even impossible for any age!) made me want to laugh out loud right there. (I resisted.) All the heads would probably have looked normal if the Man in White's hair had not screaming out, "I'm proud of my colour. I'm proud of my age. I'm not going to hide. I'm aging gracefully."
Now that is an admirable feat for anyone in RT: To see aging as a personal growth. Most of the men react to it like an ultimatum on life. Like on reaching 41, they have become ‘old’, therefore they have to do everything to ‘look’ young. First of all, 41 is not old. Second of all, so what if you’re older, revel in it. Vanity is a sign of insecurity. So to the Man in White I say: Kudos to your spirit, you have proved the age is a state of mind. It's time to be proud of everything about ourselves, including our age. So to everybody aging gracefully out there, "Happy 41st year on earth!"

Friday, February 12, 2010

An attempt at a story: An abandoned attempt.

Sliding Door

Standing in front of the mirror, looking long and hard at the reflection, Maya didn’t like what she saw: A tired worn out face. With blackheads and skewed up eyebrows. Frizzy mass of hair like a black halo around her head. Looking closer she saw the fringes of white hair right in front, the hair was of a different texture even: the white ones. Stringy and stubborn, refusing to get behind the black ones even when her fingers deftly tried its many tricks. Maya gave up, sighing. She sighed that her hair was greying right in front, like Indira Gandhi, she thought. A band of platinum from the forehead, right to the centre of the head and then declining like the metal disintegrating. “But Mrs. Gandhi looked good and Mrs Raphael cannot carry it off.” She did not have the will nor the energy to do anything about her unruly greys. It was right there in front for the world to see. It was no Platinum streak. Just ugly white frays, which seemed to have a life of their own. Walking away from the mirror, Maya moved to her favourite spot in the house: the room with a view. With the sliding glass French windows, which led to the garden. The lawn stretched on just a few yards more and then it was a steep fall to a rocky beach. But from where she was, all she could see was the wide open sea and the sun setting after a long day’s work of shining. It looked like the daily dip. The sea basking when the sun takes bath. Washing away the dirt and grime, after a day of blazing in the open.
Her eyes swept across the horizon, it lazily took in the many sights. Along with it the hammock tied to the two coconut palms. That was where Maya used to read and dream when she was younger.
Summers were always spent in her parent’s house. When Yaakov’s school closes, Maya closed her kitchen too and moved base to her parent’s, beside the sea. This was one such lazy May evening. With glass of iced tea fitted with a mint leaf and a slice of lime atop the ice, it looked picture perfect on the dining table. The glass catching the light of the setting sun. The tea looked like garnet. A big block of garnet. Quickly taking a picture with her small digital camera, a hobby acquired over few months, inspired by the photo stream on flickr, Maya got a better idea. As the light was perfect, a gut feeling told her to step outside.It felt strange. It was not like the stepping out in the morning with the coffee mug. It was not like the stepping out in the afternoon, to call Yaakov, for lunch from the sand pit. Maya felt like she stepped out to another time. Shirking the queer feeling, with camera in one hand and iced tea in the other, with renewed interest to the rock table juxtaposed between the hammock and the sand pit. Placing the tumbler, on the rock, she took a flurry of pictures. The click of the shutter was a familiar sound. Sounded like something she had done just there, another lifetime ago........
“Hey guys huddle closer; we need you all in this picture.” “Hey Adarsh! Sit down will you, P.T. move your fat arse and place it somewhere.” “Prarthna, give me a smile honey!” “Hey! Leave some space for me, you horrendous thugs of friends.” “I need to be in the picture too, heartless morons!” “Ok. Ok get ready!” Rushing towards a space Adarsh had managed to find for Maya, pushing aside Philip’s fat arse and Prarthna’s slim one. He fitted himself and made space for her right beside him. Maya smiled at him. He avoided her gaze with a grin. The shutters clicked. They didn’t move. They stood still. Relishing their togetherness, one last time. Last day of college and all gathered around their favourite place: the hammock under swaying coconut palms.
“NLSIU is where we are going to be next, guys!” Adarsh said with such certainty, which was so typical of him. It was easy for him to say. He’d never failed a test, never a quiz he hadn’t creamed, never a scrabble he hadn’t won. But the rest of the motley crew; Prarthna was not even interested in the course; she applied because the gang was doing it. P.T. so rich, with money spilling out from his father’s bulging coffers, it didn’t matter if he got through the test, ‘daddy’, could buy a seat. And Maya, like Prarthna was indecisive. For Prarthna her flair for design was what made her uncertain. She couldn’t make up her mind between her dream course and her friends. But for Maya she could never make up her mind about anything. She was used to people making the choices for her.Right to what she wore. Her mother always told her what to wear and planned her wardrobe. Left to her own Maya would always choose the same brown jubbah, her faded jeans and her bhandini dupatta. Prarthna always said “Maya, the first time you wore this, it was a statement. Now it’s more like a never-ending speech.” It was her father who filled in her college application. Wrote Sociology in bold. “You don’t have the drive to do economics”, he said. “And you will stop your reading the moment you take up English Literature as an academic course. Honey! I hate to see you give up the only thing you seem to have a passion for.” Her Father thought best that she does her post graduation In Sociology, after the bachelors, but Maya wanted to be with the gang. She wanted to be with Adarsh and that’s all that mattered to her. For the first time in her life, she revelled in the fact that she was finally clear about something. “Adarsh is my destiny.” Maya was sure about that. Maya, stood there watching Adarsh so animated, talking about how they were all going to be together again in another campus. She wondered how simple it was for Adarsh to dream and take by hand everyone into his glorious reverie. Adarsh took them all to the campus none had seen for real. But somehow when he spoke, they all saw, old buildings in red bricks with large wooden awning painted in yellow. Ivy creeping in through gigantic windows. Gargoyles at the roof tops. Pine trees on either side of the pathways, which took them to the various departments, the acres of thick foliage which were left to grow on its own design. Maya couldn’t help smiling at his excitement, secretly delighted for she had visited the campus a hundred times, in her dreams, strolling hand in hand with Adarsh. Not that they ever walked thus in real. For Maya, leaving college, and going to NLSIU, was to be the next step in her relationship with Adarsh. Where she imagined they would finally admit to each other and like couples flaunt their love in public. After all they had come of age......
Once again the gang met beneath the coconut palms next to the swaying hammock. As imagined Adarsh creamed the test, P.T. bought his seat. Prarthna got into her design course. And Maya. And Maya was just a seat away from the rest in NLSIU. Her name was the first in the waiting list. If anyone dropped the course she could get in. That day, along with the rest Alice was there too and she had topped the tests. Jubilant as always, life never seemed to give a reason for Adarsh to be otherwise, impressed that a female actually beat him to it; Adarsh was engrossed in conversation with Alice. As Maya came out with a tray of iced tea for everyone, topped with mint leaves and lemon wedges atop the ice, she noticed Adarsh’s hands casually slung over Alice’s shoulder. “I am the only one who doesn’t have a footing on the future.” She thought. She suddenly felt alone.The sight of the casual camaraderie between Adarsh and Alice left her disturbed. She liked Alice. But at that moment, Maya blamed Alice for her misfortune. Alice had become the enemy and Adarsh the betrayer. Like she always does, Maya withdrew into herself with a big smile plastered on her face. Waiting one more torturous hour for the gang to dismiss, Maya wanted to be left alone. Adarsh was hovering around with a piece of paper in his hands. Maya could see that he wanted some time alone with her. But she avoided every chance at having to be alone with him. Puzzled by Maya’s sudden aloofness, Adarsh said goodbye to the gang as they left in P.C.’s car. Maya quickly stepped into the sliding door and closed it behind her.
That was the last time she saw Adarsh. Looking at her from afar with the piece of paper in his hands, relentlessly swishing in the breeze. Maya stood there in front of the sliding door, and wondered for a minute, “Should I step out and say goodbye”. Adarsh was to leave early next day for Bangalore and in a week the course would commence. “He will forget me.” The thought of her having no relevance in his life hurt her even more. She was amazed at how much she could feel. “And my father thinks I am devoid of passion other than for reading”, she mused. Maya didn’t step out of the sliding door that evening. And she remembered she had just turned twenty two. She went to the telephone confirmed the seat in a local college for post graduation in Sociology.
A week went by, cooped in the house with an Updike; Maya had a yellowish tinge to her skin. “Its lack of some sunshine!” said Maya’s mother. “Get out of the house for some fresh air, for heaven’s sake! You go to MEtro today, and pick up the grocery for the week”, insisted her mother. Maya walked into Alice in Metro. Astonished to see her, Maya notices a look of surprise on Alice’s as well. They exclaim in unison, “I thought, you’d be in Bangalore!”
“No, I got into IIM. A, It was my dream to get there....but I thought you took my seat in NLSIU. Adarsh in fact made me write a letter to Dean, that day at your place, forfeiting the seat if I didn’t want it, so that you could get it. It seems your name was the first in the waiting list.” “He was so happy about it that he was hugging me all day.” Laughed Alice her open, loud, thunderous laugh. And it echoed in her ears...
Maya stirred from what it seemed like a long sleep, hearing a laugh. A loud open feminine laugh. She jolted up to find herself swaying on the hammock, first time after her twenty-second birthday, eighteen years ago. Maya got up feeling heavy.