Keeping you alive

I woke up with a start and fumbled at the table top beside the bed. With my eyes half closed, I pressed the power button of my phone and squinted to take a better look.

It was three. Waani was still wailing and there was no trace of Amrita in the room. I shifted in the bed and tried rocking the cradle to no avail. Waani only wailed with increasing intensity. I was concerned about Amrita now. She wasn’t in the room and the stillness of early morning broken up by a child’s cries didn’t bring her in either.
I leapt up to my feet and gingerly lifted Waani in my arms. Resting her head against my shoulder, I ran my hand gently across her back, trying to sing a lullaby. Gradually, her wailing turned into a sing song attuned to my humming. Within ten minutes, she was sound asleep when I placed her back into the cradle and rocked it to and fro gently, my thoughts now returned to Amrita. I closed the bedroom door behind me without making as much of a sound. And tiptoed to the balcony. Usually I found Amrita there, supporting herself against the railing often during the bouts of depression that plagued our lives now.

To my surprise, she wasn’t there. I turned and was about to head towards the kitchen when the bathroom door slightly ajar caught my eye. Inside, the light was on.

Amrita?

I called.

No response.

I gave the door a slight push and it creaked under the force as the bathroom floor came into view. There she was, huddled against the corner,knees together, her face a dreadful mix of agony and guilt. She had been crying. 

‘Hey, hey!’

I said as I sat down beside her and waited for a response.

After excruciatingly slow moments of silence interspersed with our breathing,

She sniffed and turned her face towards me.

‘Is she asleep?’

I nodded my head. ‘She is.

Why don’t you come to sleep as well, Amrita?

When did you wake up?’
She dropped her head and was looking at the floor now.

‘Around two. I couldn’t sleep, Vaibhav.

I have been having these thoughts that I am not taking enough care of our baby. When I look at her, these scary what ifs start ramming against my mind. I am frightened Vaibhav. I can’t do this.’
I listened to her as I took her hand in mine and held it in a warm entanglement of our fingers.
‘Am I a bad mother?’
Only I knew how I had been dreading this question ever since Amrita had delivered a perfectly healthy baby girl three weeks ago. I knew this was coming and yet I hadn’t prepared an answer. I always knew.

I turned towards her and cupped her face in my palms. How I loved her so much it pained me to see her this distraught.

In sickness and in health.

‘No, you’re not. No one can tell you that Amrita. Trust me, you’re doing the best that you can. Would I ever lie?’

It took her a moment to register what I had asked of her and she shook her head.

I wrapped my arms around her and held her firmly. Her shoulders sagged, as if a load had been taken off, and she slid hers across my waist and let her head rest against my chest. I worked my way through her hair, running my fingers along the length and the same tune that put waani to sleep came back to me.
I sighed. With Amrita, everyday was a struggle.I had fallen in love with the amazing person that she was without realising that beneath the facade, there was a soul so utterly devastated that it took humongous amount of effort keeping up with the various manifestations of her depression, now made severe with post partum trauma.

I used to think the baby would change her outlook for the better.She had been happy. She had been all smiles and she had no idea I could see through that. At the second week after the delivery progressed, I knew she’d breakdown. I knew it was imminent and I had hoped I’d be there when it happened because as much as I hoped it didn’t happen, I knew it was inevitable too.
My thoughts were interrupted when she took a deep breath and looked up at me.

‘I love you so much.’

I said, my words caught in a whisper. I lowered my head and kissed her on the forehead.

She tugged at my tee-shirt, pulling at it with all the strength she could muster, and kissed me back on the lips. In that kiss, I could feel her longing to revalidate herself as someone who deserved to be loved. Tears welled up in my eyes and I struggled to keep them from leaving me when I couldn’t afford to seem vulnerable. 

I wanted to make my way of dealing with her depression work. I wanted to give her the hope that she searched for, when she looked into my eyes.

When she committed suicide nine years later, she told me in a note that it really worked. 

You kept me alive far more than anyone ever could.

Yours.

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Have some faith.

I don’t find answers in your faith,

But you do.

And maybe we can go on living like that.

Maybe I can stop sneering at your traditional ways

 and you can keep from the thought that I worship the devil.

I don’t.

For I’ll need faith for that.
Carry on,

If you find peace,

You head bent over in front of idols,

And deities.

Books and shrines.

Mountains and rivers.

Fire and the sun.

I am but a blot on another dot,

In a cosmic space that boggles my mind,

And I tried faith to give me the hope that

There still was some hope left for us.

I am but moving towards death like you,

Trying to avoid the inevitability,

Trying to make sense in the truth that,

I am not worse off than you.
I have seen you shrug and brush off a tragedy as

The will of the Lord,

And resign to the cajoling that,

In the end,

The faithful ones shall attain redemption,

While I’ll be queueing up at the gates of hell.
I,

The faithless,

And yet neither you nor I are saved from the end.

What do you like?

There are a lot of things about life that I don’t like. It’s short and so uncertain, so often ends abruptly. So much about this world bothers me too when I can’t do anything about it. But today, I decided to make a list of things that I like.

  1.  Books

          Yes, I smell books. I order books when there are some already waiting to be read. Books are truly the friends we seldom acknowledge. In books I find comfort. Through the voice of those that have left us and those that continue to inspire us, I find that I can overcome my moroseness about death and existence.The world they weave exists like another universe in my mind. Places and people overlap simultaneously, from Elizabeth Bennett to Chacha Choudhary. Books were my first love and will always be.
          2. Music

          Headphones in, I can conveniently forget the world now. Some songs catapult me into the past and sweet nostalgia. While others intensify the uneasiness I have at heart and bring tears to my eyes. But in the end, music soothes. Music is my answer to the nights I have trouble sleeping.

          3. Mountains

          Photo by Aparajita

          I have been to the mountains once, with my brothers. We went on a trip to Darjeeling and I fell head over heels. As I watched the peaks being kissed by sunlight while I sat in the car, it overwhelmed me. I got caught in the meaninglessness of this existence when I stood before the towering structures that have been here forever. If asked to choose between the mountains and the sea, I know it will always be the former. It felt like home out there.

          4. Relationships

          My parents, siblings and I are not always on the same page on everything and I guess that’s allowed. We are allowed differences and inspite of those, we can always be confident of having each other around like pillars you can hold on to.

          Amongst my relationships my prized achievements include retaining a few very good friends. They’re few, but enough. I don’t need a hundred friends who be unavailable when I need them. I just need one who’ll be there. And one, is enough.

          5. Cakes and pastries

          My friends now know how I love these sweet delights. To indulge into a cheesecake or a heavenly black forest feels the right thing to do, any day. Like a child, I look with a longing at delicious pastries kept in the display at bakeries. I used to joke that marrying a baker would really be convenient for my cravings.

          6. Poems

          Poets say so much in terse phrases that it astounds me. 

          I shall be telling this with a sigh 

          Somewhere ages and ages hence: 

          Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, 

          I took the one less traveled by, 

          And that has made all the difference.

          The poems I hold dear to me talk about time and death. They give me the comfort of trying to find order in a random chaotic universe. Poetry offers the solace that is often snatched away by an existential crisis.
          When I started making this list, I was at a loss. I was unsure if I could list even five. And I did. But there’s more! There are a lot of things that I like. This list isn’t comprehensive. There’ll be at least twenty lists like this one- at least a hundred things that I like! 🙂

          What makes me want to write?

          The important question is this: Why do I write?
          I have found entire worlds form around me as I turned page after page, reading what someone else had written. I find that words comfort me and can explain what I feel. 
          When I read a sentence that goes:

          The forest filled with the sound of birds chirping, as if it celebrated the birth of the boy.

          As I read that, I have a picture in front of my eyes. And anyone who loves reading does so because the image the same sentence creates for him can be entirely different from mine.
          Isn’t that wonderful?
          I think I want to write because I love reading and I know what words can do to you.

          Writers inspire me.

          Poets create magic with their distorted perception of this world.

          Novelists create entire universes full of unique characters between the yellow pages of an ageing book.
          I write because I know, palaces will be razed to the ground but words will never die. And it is my shot at avoiding Oblivion.

          Writing helps me cope with the dilemma of existing in the absurd. I place my life before anyone else and yet fail to find it’s purpose.

          I write because it is much like talking to myself: unraveling the innermost thoughts of this mind and putting it out to censure.

          Us

          We are men and women.

          Some of our days begin with odd jobs-

          We are busy lifting things and loading them in truck, our soiled vests and a sweaty skin gleaming like polished shoe surfaces in the sun and yet by our own admission, we’re invisible.

          We are driving autorickshaws, plying people from A to B, day in and day out. Some of these people sit at their desks and prepare reports that ought to be something substantive. Some of these people have people working for them, forging blocks of metal into sheets, the jangle similar to a steel plate slipping from my hand and landing on my feet.

          And there are of us, wary people of the same mould, worrying over the same things simultaneously: the safety of our loved ones and the safety of our reputations.

          We talk about anything under the sun- about women who were asking for it and about men who are bothering us. 

          This isn’t a feminist rant. It is about you and I.

          You begin your day in a rented apartment and fast forward to work where you elaborate on presentations. I wake up and go where I work. I wake up and mop,clean,brush and dust for the madam that leaves her kid in care and keeps a foot in her cubicle and another in the creche.

          You run, jump,skip,hop over obstacles and everyday is the same except that sometimes, you die. Sometimes, we die.

          But still, you chatter around tea shops, discussing politicians and cussing them at the same time and I drop by, alight from my car and take a sip of the streetside tea while posting it on Instagram. You wear your overalls while machines buzz around you, a constant hum while you go wham. I, a ten year old kid see everything differently. Your world is so drab. I want to grow up already and have a job to pay for what I want. And you keep telling me to have fun while I can. Growing up seems fun too. You sit by the side of the road with last week’s produce that didn’t sell but I can see no one will buy it today too. I pity you, old lady.

          You tell me I should buy this insurance and you have targets to report. I have choices to make. 

          These are just thoughts of a clueless mind about what we are, all of us.

          Some of us can’t see colours. Some of us lose the will to carry on while others tell us their survival stories. I wish I could record all of this.

          Men, women and transgenders because seeing the world in polar opposites is like trying to fit it into a zigzaw puzzle when it is not. It’s a seamless transition of states of matter. From skin to charred bone dust, from skin to termite infested flesh in soil, from present to the past. 

          People.

          People who marry the person they love. People who don’t like such people. People who have no qualms killing but find it difficult to look at PDA. 

          Children who don’t know what discrimination is, but will find out when they realise growing up is not that bed of roses they imagined it would be. Children who refused to grow up and have to be trained at schools for children with special needs.

          Children with parents and without them. 

          This is going to take more than this. Maybe a series of posts. To talk about nothing else but us.

          And to learn to empathize.

          Fluid thoughts.

          A neurologist told me that I had abnormally chaotic brain activity even during  five minutes of lying down, connected to a machine that was supposed to map brain waves. I have no idea how that machine would tell him my the constant slurry of thoughts that took me from one state of mind to another in perhaps milliseconds? 

          And that is the reason why my blog is called seamless. Thoughts and stories converge and interminge from one imaginary scene to the next in alarming speed. I can be roaming the streets of a post apocalyptic town one moment and the very next moment I could be crying over my own death.
          Thoughts like a fluid coagulate into a matter and keep bombarding my mind with what ifs and what not until I fall asleep.

          And then, I conveniently dream 

          Distance

          I know we are miles apart: you and I. Yet I’ve been thinking about us. Distance does nothing to lessen what I feel for you and that is what I am concerned about.

          What if, when twenty or thirty years later, we do not even know where the other one is and I am still stuck in time, thinking about you?

          This is a trying time when we exist after having said our goodbyes because we have so little a chance of meeting again, though that is as good a chance as me wearing my favorite shirt tomorrow. And yet, if years later, when we’ve forgotten all about what brewed between us and you have forgotten I exist, 

          If years later, I am still trying to extricate your name out of my memories, wouldn’t that be sad?

          Because it will remind me how lonely I have been all these years.

          Atonement

          image

          I am currently reading Atonement again. To tell the truth, I came across the movie earlier than I read the book. The movie recommended the book to me. It is a brilliantly made movie, though feels to drag for a while too, specially the later half. But no movie could ever do justice to a book. A movie is just one perspective to view a book. When we read it, we all imagine it to be unique. Our own interpretations of the same scene are entirely different.
          The movie is a treat to the eyes and your mind too. There is so much to deduce and the timeline of the plot starts playing inside your mind time and again as soon as you realise there is a play on the interpretation of memories. You want to remember as much as you can.

          I am reading the book again because although there is nothing much to miss, I always stumble across a new detail that I hadn’t paid any attention to, earlier.
          Ian McEwan is brilliant with the imagery. The scenes are so well illuminated that you see them unfolding right before your eyes. The movement back and forth in time presents a misguided version of the actual events as seen through the eyes of 13 year old Briony.
          There is meticulous detailing of appearances and state of mind as well.
          The best parts are when the author really delves deep into the stream of thoughts playing inside the character’s mind. A point in case is when Briony is inspecting her fingers and speculating movement:

          A

          nd when she did crook it finally, the action seemed to start in the finger itself, not in some part of her mind. When did it know to move, when did she know to move it? There was no catching herself out. It was either- or. There was no stitching, no seam and yet she knew that behind the smooth continuous fabric was the real self

          VIP, anyone?

          If we voted you to power, I don’t see how we gave you a mandate to skip the queue or to deserve VIP treatment. How does a servant of the public become a celebrity that ought to be put up on a high pedestal?
          Yes, a servant of the public- that is what a member of parliament is.
          But the public is so used to seeing their politicians have a claim to better treatment that though it may irk them, they are still individuals who speak for themselves. Members of the public aren’t the ones surrounded by bodyguards and yes men.
          Suddenly, everyone around such a politician starts considering himself a very important person too.
          So you have the driver abusing other commuters and misbehaving with toll booth staff. The assistant demands attention as the stepping stone to the MP if you want to be heard. The distant relative flaunts his relations everywhere with the very common, तू जानता नही मैं कौन हूँ।
          Power can be that addictive to those who simply bask in someone else’s influence.
          The step taken by Air India and other 6 members of Federation of Indian Airlines in barring Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad from their flights after he blatantly misbehaved with an AI staff is commendable.
          He created the ruckus when he was seated in economy class of ALL ECONOMY Pune Delhi flight.
          What is the airline supposed to do in an all economy flight to accomodate him?
          A. Seat him in the cockpit and let him fly the plane.
          B. Seat him on the roof of the plane itself.
          C. Apply to add business class section to the flight and wait until it is approved, sanctioned and made available.

          image

          These carriers stood up for their staff and that boosts employee morale. The last straw in the hat you need is your employer being apologetic to your client for misbehaving with you.
          It has set a great example. Tell me, by what yardstick does a politician deserve special treatment at our expense?
          This is a culture that needs to be discouraged.
          Politicians are people like you and me, only worse because they apparently live above the law.