A Kiss of Peace even after Death Do Us Part

p1000726_copy

Lately, my senses often pervade with thoughts about death. They bemuse my thought form. Could it be that undiscovered ghoul lurking in the neighbour’s attic? Or, a morbid phantom floating about in an invisibility cloak? Coursing its next prey, even as we fantasise about the weekend on a soporific Monday morning. Would it sweep you off like it does in the movies? Or, drop you dead when you’re in the middle of hosting a cheerful banter at the monthly kitty?

The loss of kindred has become a frequently uttered syllable under the living roof. That are residing both, within and beyond the national border. Whether belonging to the direct bloodline or further down the ancestral twine. Its revered occurrence induces an unexpected, recurrent mulling over. Beckoning me to wonder if there would soon come a time when I will be led into enduring an experience alike. The one of having a beloved snatched away. At the snap of a finger.

As inevitable, loss of life is sometimes accompanied by a preamble. And at others, unescorted by any tip-offs. The bottom line being, there is no ideal way to deal with it.

My uncle passed away a few days ago. News as such, particularly when unforeseen, reels the memory lane into an instant flashback. If spieled off over the telephone, the voice on the other end starts drowning out. Because the moment you hear that laconic choice of words, you descend into your train of thoughts. In less than a blink of the eye. It is like staring at a wall that is devoid of any artistic suspensions. You don’t know what to think. And yet, you visualise stray thoughts creating vague smokey patterns.

I tried to recall when I had last heard he was unwell. The cells in my cerebellum countered the idea. Because my memories of him are short-lived but great. And none confined to being in bed. Even otherwise, I had not known him to be a troublesome person. Or, meddlesome. Or, even a handful to tackle. His opinions were never on offer over the counter unless asked. For he was a man difficult to impress. His regards for certain somethings meant eye-tied reliability by the family. Amidst the six siblings, he was neither the eldest nor the most bedridden. While suffering from a bout of viral fever, his pulse had reached a decision. That it wanted to stop ticking. Even before the crack of a daybreak could stretch across the horizon.

It had to be coped up with. Period.

The voice on the other end of my phone fluttered in and out. Enumerating treasonous reasons of his abrupt departure. Showcasing roots and its causes. It didn’t make a difference.

p1010827_copy
You may avoid looking me in the eye. But, how will you evade my reflection that’ll pursue you like a shadow? :: Reflection of the moon on the floor

The handset kept buzzing afterwards, and the recital of the monologic discourse continued. Priorities unbuckled. For, the rays of the sun now seemed to shine from the reverse direction. No matter how hard we tried to set our vision straight. Reasoning failed to ruminate over sense and sensibility. Kith and kin flew in on the same day. Still, nothing helped alter the matter-of-fact. Nothing could.

Amidst themselves, the siblings reinforced of all the support they had rendered. With superfluous vigour. The focal points of their chattering began to steer in an unanticipated direction. The drudgery of fulfilling the ceremonial rituals. Their resilience to the persisting fatigue since a couple of days. Lingering ailments that needed looking after, henceforth. The daily duties and chores he attended to imprinted an irreplaceable void. Hued and cried about. It could have easily been a staged avenue hosting chattering parleys. If not, these may have passed as talks that induced some warmth. Neither helped rewind the series of unfortunate incidents.

What had to be done, had to be done.

If only.

p1000703_copy
The moon indulges its admirer in a game of hide-n-seek, leaving behind its streaks as a teaser

This eponymous togetherness also brought a version of my uncle whom I had not known to exist. Of course, it wasn’t as if he had, on a fine morning, sprouted into adulthood. His quirky mischiefs as a child were fondly recalled. The nature of which belonged to another era. The fear of their father catching him in the act was rekindled. Added to it, the terrifying aftermath of thwacking him all over, if caught red-handed. Recollections of favouring and conducive group work amidst the similarly aged siblings, when young, were enamoured. So were his telltales of naughtiness and gang-like shenanigans.

Our lifestyles today cause us to separate with families. Stitched to the tag of a promising future. Muddled and meddled with machines and technology. Family get-togethers for arbitrary prattling befall by prior intimations or appointments.

If only, there is a chance to get to learn about people. Even if, blood relations. If only, their kneading revelations are brought to the cover pages when it matters. When they are alive. Maybe, it helps minimise the leftover void. The same vanity that nags you to know someone when you have a lifetime stretching ahead of you.

Sadly, when you hit the end of the road, there beckons a designated diversion. One for each. That you’re meant to take. And when you oblige, you part with a knotted feeling in the pit of your stomach. For having known them barely all this while.

p1010781_copy

Photographs: Perungudi, Chennai
Advertisements

To Visit,​ or To Not Visit?

It’s a different story when mum visits over.

img_8443_copy
Your presence lingers just like the chimaera of a shadow from the afternoon sun

A cleaner house, a more organised routine, timely meals, and household chores running like a set of well-oiled machine. As kids, there never went by a time when we were left to starve. There never came a moment when we had to pick and wear the same clothes we had dumped in the wash tub yesterday. There never showed up a week when we were late for school. And there never went by a year without new clothes. We took our basic needs, which Maslow has so mindfully defined, for granted. Or, so was the case with many of us.

When age plays its card of reasoning, the tables turn over, and the daylight of it all cracks on us. While accounting for mum’s ubiquity. There is a need to consider all domestic pursuits with the same effervescence. Whether, the regimental mundane or the infrequent extraordinary. It can mean obliterating those lacklustre cobwebs that are beginning to claim their reign across the ceilings. Or, freeing the living space from impending pests and insects. It can involve restitching her clothes from where the seaming has long retired. Or, restocking the refrigerator as so to avoid running out of supplies. It can intend having her routine health check-ups done. Or, ensuring she consumes her after-meal medicines on time. The list of to-dos pulsates as faithfully as the heart pumps blood into the system. In the midst of which, the household dailies are the one arm. And the need to assimilate any me-time with a diplomacy is the other.

The wake of this sojourning pit stop fetches a realisation of selfless dedication. And we find it to be all right if she decides to take some time off. A trip into the hilly valley canvassed with a flowing stream nearby. Or, paying a visit to the near and far relations. Attendance at a social gathering, even if it means compressed absence. Or, spending a few days with another of her offsprings. This is the me-time we crave for. The chance to unwind from the paradoxical routine.

Sometimes, I feel amused at the thought of the concept of time off. Because of its out-of-the-blues prominence. Because of the stressed insistence we make about its presence. Because it was an abstract conviction in days when we grew up. So acclimatised are we to our lifestyle today, that anyone stopping over for a stay becomes nothing short of a moral obligation. And we take our time coming to terms with it.

A lifetime gives us an airtight container worth of opportunities to undergo first-time experiences. We cherish some. And pay our last respects to a handful. No container, yet, is ever enough to collect and bottle those ventures that we engage in with mum. Considering, the memory of every one of her stays is an experience of a first-time. Whether cherished or swept to a corner of the mind.

These days her attention is elsewhere that is sponging a significant chunk of her energy and time. For she is visiting my younger sibling and taking care of my year-and-a-half-old niece. On days when the sun shines on the tropics, it would not make a difference. But today, I couldn’t have cared less about unwinding.

They say, learning to give in and give away is an acquired trait. You tend to pick it up when you have a younger one around. One can be the centre of attention for only so long. Maybe, it is a phase you’re meant to grow out of.

Honestly, I’m not there yet. For, I feel the blister of an old-school sentiment brewing within me while she is away.

p1020258_copy

Jealousy.

Photographs: Paris, Kashmir, Kodaikanal

And the Wait Goes On

 

img_8003_copy
Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France

Waiting for feedback is like reaching the theatre an hour before showtime. You know you’re early. And yet, the optimist in you wishes that someone would miraculously flick on the movie then. You indulge in restless fingernail-scraping. And try to listen to the negligible sounds they make when rubbed against each other. However vain, the attempt to kill the time might seem.

When you’re working on a piece that’s in anticipation of feedback, you try your best not to slip. For instance, there is a tendency to craft a write-up with extra caution when you need to send it for feedback. You double-check the draft for suitable sentence constructions and grammar. And then, edit it over. Inadequately pleased, you give it another bout of mowing and pruning. Finally, there comes a moment when you throw your hands up in the air. Not to utter Hallelujah, but to interject surrender. That, it is time to make your submission.

And then, the waiting begins.

You tap your feet. First the left and then, the right. You count the number of times you’ve 20160909_160245_copydone it, and equalise it on the other. You head to the kitchen and fill a glass of that odourless, transparent liquid. In slow motion. The little splashes of the spilling water fascinate you. You find it funny how you never paid any attention to this convention earlier. You take an incumbent sip. For you do not want to give away the air of being unoccupied at the moment. In the hopes of having passed a half hour in the kitchen, you race back to your room and check your phone. Doubtful of the internet detecting on your mobile, you wake your laptop up from its sleepy stupor. And refresh your mailbox with a constant, annoying ticking sound. A little part inside you can’t help feeling but dejected.

You want to get back to reality. Having emailed the article six minutes ago. You try to forget about it and move on. Like Ross’s and Rachel’s concept of being on a break.

A growing anticipation piles up within. You pore over the piece even after having emailed it, to check for errors. Even if you don’t find any. Even if it’s including an unnecessary comma. The prospect of a third eye commenting on your work is exciting. At the same time, it is inclusive of a waiting period – an anxious feat when you are at the receiver’s end. You’re eager to receive an input. Because this is somebody unrelated to you by blood, telling you, that you have talent. There is a possibility that the same person transforms into your audience tomorrow.

sundown

Another day strolls by, calling closure, and paving its way to the ink-dipped skies. The sun dyes its near-and-dear ones with a lazy shade of tangerine. Its quotidian absence beckons to the descending twilight. Although you do not like the sound of it, you drag your feet off and lift your lazy rear from the chair. To get on with all the pending and impending chores. A couple of hours pass by. The need to feel in control quashes the need to have obsessed over an email all this while. The former wins your inner tug of war. You feel better and get back to running your errands with a renewed zest.

Just before turning in at night, you give your phone a cursory glance. It is no more than a habitual nightcap. There are a couple of notifications. But deep down, you know your eyes are looking out for just the one.

There you see it. And hear your heartbeat thump simultaneously.

The much-awaited email is lying in your inbox. You check the time and notice it had arrived forty minutes ago. Now, that’s far from being qualified as a damsel in distress. It was a busy evening after all! You check an active chat window that has an acknowledgement of the sent email. In the snap of a finger, you push all the floppy emotions that consumed you through the day to the quayside. And respond with a coolness that you didn’t realise you had in you all this while.

As you’re ushered into the theatre, you succeed in discerning the faint sounds made by rubbing your fingernails. They need to be barely a centimetre away from your ear. Hallelujah!

Photographs: Paris, Chennai