Letters of unsent past

My email drafts were full of unsent emails to you. It was embarrassing how much I wanted to reach out but the haunting “chill” that you had left me with stopped me. The answers would never be mine. So I did what I knew best, I wrote to you.

One brave-pointless day, I transferred all those emails into a password protected document on my computer. The document became longer with each entry. The letters themselves less frequent and more at peace with the situation. Several times I returned to just read and introspect on the pain. Today, I wandered to that part of my computer; hoping to read them and find the closure I desperately seeked. 23 password attempts later… the document cannot be opened.

I suppose this is how closure looks. A quiet indifference to the why, how and why me. Silently, learning my lessons from that fall and moving on. Acceptance that it is what it is. Some answers lie in letting it go and moving forward. 

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Quiet

Some mornings I wake up bright and early. I cook, have a shower and settle into my chair by the window sill. I can hear the birds, mostly crows, calling out to each other. ‘Hello!! It is morning. Take in some of this goreous sun.’ Their calling is soothing. Opening the windows and drawing back the curtains allows sunlight to greet me, my bed. The warmth is my friend. Sunrays give the best hugs. It is a quiet moment of me in the world; yet it is one of just me.

My cup of tea and whatever book I’m reading then beside me. Today it is Rilke. I turn to him in moments of chaos and silence and let his words wash over me. In his words, ‘There is much beauty here, because there is much beauty everywhere.’

In this mad city, I often miss the quiet of the mountains, the less stress, the no traffic, the no-honk life. A stillness. But today, I feel content in this beauty around me. I hope to keep finding the beauty in the everyday quiet. 

Celebrations and mourning

A stray golden hair

triggered an hour 

of weeping inconsolably;

Could it have been 

a lengthy nightmare 

Of you gone?

I never believed
 in heaven 

till your death wiped

clean such beliefs.

I needed you 

watching over me.

Not too many tears today, 

I tell myself, 

for you must be 

floating in cake and ice cream. 

How else do you turn 12,

Darling?

Ladies special

I recently moved to Bombay to work on a project. Bombay itself is a beautifully, well-connected city. It has been just three weeks of taking the trains and I’ve already been pushed against the door, fallen flat on the platform and broken my phone’s headphone socket. But it still has not deterred me from taking the trains everyday. Only cause it’s the easiest way to get to work and the most suitable for me.

Last week, I moved to Chembur which is on the Harbour Line. This line seems to be relatively calmer than the Central Line which I earlier took. What is a joy about the Harbour Line is the Ladies Special train. (I’m not sure all the lines have it. At least the Central one didn’t. But I digress.)

It has just been three days of taking this train and I’m in love.

——–

The alert woman announces the arrival of the 12 dabba ladies special pulling into Chembur at 9.04 am. Women step forward and occupy the entire platform, otherwise restricted to the markings of First Class or Ladies coach. A sea of colour is one’s first sight. Once I board the train, I patiently look for a corner to sit down and scribble this post or read, a little in awe of affirmative action.

What this special has done is fill a train with women going to work. But that is just not it, is it?

It is a train where women can occupy seats with abandon. A train where women know each other. The gentle nods of recognition. The smiles. The hellos and goodbyes. Some talk about their work, partners, homes. Laugh. Joke. Accomodate each other. Play on their phones. Listen to music. Read. Pray. A variety of working women all possibly looking for a little less hassle in the morning.

The train stops at every stop and ambles it’s way to CST. For those ten minutes in the morning, platform number 1 at CST is mostly women. Going to their respective workspaces. Hopefully in a better mood.

Got me on my knees, Layla

We were gathered around her. All five of us. The doctor held her front paw and injected her. I heard the words slip out of mom, who stood in dad’s arms a few feet away, “Her heart has stopped.”

Huge wails followed from all of us. For several hours later, we kept breaking down. I’m barely holding it together right now.

For many years, it was a recurring nightmare for me: I would wake up and she would be gone. But she fought everything that came her way – Paralysis. Weakening heart. Fungal infections. Tick infestations. Her will to live and eat was very strong. The last few months of her life were filled with visits to the doctor to ease her pain and give her a better life. One her giant heart was deserving of.

Her heart gave everyone love without any discrimination. Not a soul has anything else to say about her but that she enriched our lives. She changed several pre-conceived notions about dogs. She managed to envelop each of us in her never ending cycle of warmth and love.

I will miss her. Like I would miss a limb. She is a part of me and always will be. So that’s not it. Her calming demeanour that got me through several depressive spells will be missed. Sorely. I think she will haunt me for a long time to come. And I’m not sad about it. After all, she taught me how to love. She loved me unconditionally. She gave me reason to live when I felt lost and at brink of yet another abyss. She eased my worried mind with a few tail wags, licks and her reassuring presence. Her zen face, warm body and soft snores were home for me. 

How can I not miss her?

As we set her down in her grave, a part of me wanted to curl up with her there and tell her she made me a better person and I was eternally grateful. But chances are that she knew it all along. Chances are she’s still watching over me. Telling me I’m a fighter and I can beat anything life throws at me. Just like when she was with me.

Choose kindness

I have a 12-year-old dog. She is a gorgeous Labrador. Two years ago, she had a paralytic attack and lost movement in the back legs. Slowly with therapy and medication she fought her way back to walking. A little while ago, she had some trouble again; but if you see her sitting down or sleeping you will not be able to tell. She is one of the happiest, kindest, most loving souls I have ever met. Her tail is a whacking device she uses often when she meets strangers or loved ones.

We take short bathroom breaks outside the house a few times a day. Walks are not really possible because she has to be assisted even for short distances. We always sit down below the house for half-an-hour or so after our evening walk. The footpath is wide enough for both of us. The weather is usually pleasant and sitting down is a good unwinding session for me. She watches the vehicles go by, her street friends come visit us and we sit in silence. Occasionally, people stop by, pet her and talk to the dis-interested human sitting with her (mostly me or my dad).

Off late, I hate most of the people stopping by (with a vengeance). They offer their priceless nuggets of wisdom each time. I have forgotten how many times people found it necessary to tell me, “Your dog is in great pain. You must put her to sleep.” There is that extended stress on the must. Like a doctor advising the terminally ill. I don’t always have the time, patience or energy to explain to them that I would know this far sooner than they would. My dog, though very old, has a spirit to live that I cannot always explain in words. I usually snort and drag her back inside. “We do not need this negativity,” I tell her. I wonder if people offer my dog this wisdom. If they don’t maybe I should consider wearing a grumpier, more intimidating face.

Layla has never really complained about the pain she is in. But we as a family have always known and rushed to her aid. We have done doctor visits, stayed up odd hours and been there for her in the myriad of ways each of us is usually there for her. But it isn’t really about that. This whole unsolicited advice has gotten me thinking. How easily do we hand out advice to others? Their advice doesn’t make me question how I treat my dog because I know I care very, very much. (In fact I perhaps have a serious case of separation anxiety right now because I am leaving her for a few months.) But it hurts me. It hurts that we as a society don’t always think about the harm we might be causing. How little we have begun to think before making these well-meaning, concerned statements. Or that we are somehow experts in this matter and know that death is the only way. This is obviously not a one-off experience. I have friends who have been offered such advice too. We brush it off and move on. It seems to be a pattern especially with ageing, sick dogs. I don’t want to be crude and draw a comparison on when else would anyone offer such advice. But it upsets me.

So, I want to send out a message into the universe. Hoping that people would think before they callously utter these words. Without realising that the family is already well aware about the short life that dogs live. They are grappling with the sheer magnitude of such a loss. They are willing to do as much as possible to ease their dog’s pain. They are more uncomfortable seeing their dog in pain than anyone else. They are already doing the best they can. So if you ever encounter someone with an old dog: Let the dog shower love on you. Pet him/her. Whisper lovely things about treats and flowers. Leave a little happier.

Choose kindness.

Don’t. Talk. About. Euthanasia.

Thoughts after reading A Handbook For My Lover

We are used to reading about a sanitised love. A love that is packaged for consumption. Especially on social media. The messiness cleaned out and removed. Vulnerability wiped away. Gore hidden from the naked eye. It is one of greatness. But not a greatness I understood.

Something felt not right. Incomplete.

I recently read Rosalyn D’Mello’s A Handbook For My Lover. I hesitantly picked it up at the literary festival. The cover wasn’t appealing enough for me. I was just coming out of a heartbreak (I might say this for years), I couldn’t imagine I had any heart left for an erotic book on love. It sat in my unread pile and collected dust. I flipped through it and closed it in a hurry. Not ready, I muttered. I picked up my old copy of Anais’s diary to reread. I realised deep and painful was what I needed. (This was before I knew Rosalyn was a fan of Anais. Talk about coincidences.) I began the book; it felt like a walk along a long, difficult and tedious path strewn with emotions, chaos, love, lust and sex. I savoured every word. Re-reading pages. Photographing bits that sounded like my thoughts. I will admit it triggered a lot of memories and forced me to deal with a lot of my own pain.

I confronted you about my strange condition. You said, with the air of a professional, that I was exhibiting an early symptom of that disease called love. I was confused. Last I checked I’d bulletproofed and bubble-wrapped my heart so that I’d be immune from such infections. I told you flatly that this had to end.

Several times while reading the book, I heaved sighs like an old lady. I would shut the book and stare at my spinning fan instead. I was overwhelmed. I have trouble talking about what I feel. I hesitate, use vague words, beat around the bush and never say the messiest things loudly. And here was a book that addressed that mess head-on. A vulnerability in my drowning confusion.

When I sat down to write this, I noticed many excerpts of the book online. But the parts that stuck with me aren’t among these. (We all do relate to books in very different ways.) This book and I travelled a journey when I was ready to dismiss the excruciating missing, the irrational love and the vulnerability of feeling exposed as my own foolhardiness. I couldn’t manage the composure I was exhibiting anymore; silently falling apart on the sidelines of a failed relationship.

If I had to say it publicly, I wouldn’t be able to. But I miss him. His shaved head, his grizzly peppered beard, his confident gait, his quiet vulnerability, his reassuring touch. I don’t want to hide it. I don’t want to be ashamed by it. Mostly, I don’t want to feel it. I try not to be shamed by the world’s need for aesthetics in love and my complete lack of it. Cause the truth is I don’t have a liking for that. Everyone speaks of composure in both love and heartbreak. Yet, my love is messy, chaotic, contradictory and non-linear. It cannot fit into neat packages to be presented as examples to be replicated. It defies even my own demand for clarity and sanity. My love is all over the place; it splatters on the walls of my life and it parades its non-conforming arse. It’s painful and surreal. It is one where there are no straight answers and great depth. It is quirky, weird, abnormal. Add another exclusionary adjective of your choice. Yet, instead of taking pride in it, I often felt shame. My heartbreak was no different.

And here was Rosalyn, speaking of her love, pain, lust, emotions and fears, and her and his imperfections so brazenly. It was real; I could run my fingers over it and recollect rather than imagine. I don’t know if the word to use here is brave. It could be called that. For me, A Handbook For My Lover was what I needed.

I have finished the book now. I feel an emptiness that the loss of a great friend leaves. I have been intensely mourning its finish and still returning to the book. I didn’t want to forget. Both the words and how it felt.

It is a recommended read for those of us who can’t help but feel a bit too much.

To Periyar and beyond

I enjoy travelling. Part of what I hope to do more of every year is travel. Both with people and alone. There is a sense of calm I feel when I am away finding small spaces of belonging. Sitting under trees. Falling asleep in a chair. Drinking beer staring into fields. Falling asleep while reading in a hammock. Walking around aimlessly. Talking about books, the world, life. Looking at sunsets with a twinkle in my eye. But what I like most is the things I learn about myself while travelling.

Recently, A and I went to Periyar. I was a little anxious about travelling cause my body has not been in the best shape. But I went packed with my regular medicines, pain killers and a can-do-it spirit. It started off rocky with me taking a train ride with a baby kicking and screaming throughout. Something I seem to attract on train/bus journeys. Yay, babies. Then it spiralled into a strange sleeper bus ride with no divisions between two seats and a uncontrollable driver who made me turn to stone all night and A sit up with her nose out the window. But we reached. One piece et all.  Promptly after reaching, we drowned ourselves in the smaller things in life. Dew drops. Butterflies. Organically grown strange looking fruit. Picking pine cones fallen on the ground. Our day was spent unwinding from the journey (two consecutive ones for me) and just relaxing in the chair, which by the end of the trip was the space my butt had memorised. By evening, we realised our plans to visit the actual park seemed vague and close to non-existent. Frantically, we looked up a few websites and I used my limited Tamil to book us on an early morning, full day trek. This task wasn’t easy and left me decently sceptical about our trek. Will we actually go? Will they feed us to sloth bears? Did I just confirm tickets with a man who has none? Will we be sitting at the park in the morning ticketless?

We did make it to the trek though. Not without me knocking on a strange door, picking up tickets from a burly man and getting an early-morning view of said Mallu man without his shirt. Yay, men. And we were off for the trek. With a few unplanned, havoc-ridden detours. The trek was chaotic to say the least and marvellous to say the maximum. We ambled behind two couples (one French and one Brit) who were nearly twice my age but so fit. They assumed A and I were a couple and threw our way a few well meaning questions with the undertone of coupledom. It all started well but went on to get difficult and off the regular route. The search for the elephants was on and I was sure if we found any, I would just lie down and let them eat me. By the time we spotted the elephants, my knee had decided to wage a full blown war. We didn’t chase the elephants like the rest of them. We sat in quiet reflection under the canopy of trees. The tall, lush trees were a delight to gaze at. The nooks with streams of water were places to spot A spotting butterflies. Watching the Malabar squirrel jump gracefully from one branch to another made us wonder how we were more evolved than that elegant fellow. It was a place to be present and lost at once.

We waddled our way back to flat land and I spent the next day recouping from fat knees and A from angry toes. I spent most of my time in a chair reading Atwood and giggling to myself. We also ate delicious fish at our organic farm stay, consumed Papaya like I have never relished it before.

As movement returned to our knees and toes by evening, we made early morning plans to go boating. The boat ride was magnificent (words fail to describe) and one didn’t need a fancy camera to take breathtaking photos. We did spot more elephants, wild boars, deers and several lovely birds. Many of our co-passengers were not half as enthusiastic as us.

It was a lesson in many things for me: a) Indians like to boat. b) They can call women with short hair – ‘Saaar’. c) They wake up early to go boating, stand in long queues, push people around and then sleep on the boat. d) Periyar lake was one of the most beautiful bits of nature I have seen. e) People can get super dressed up to come boating. I mean some of them looked like models.

After we finished our hour-long boat ride, we walked out slowly through the park. Enjoying the birds, the monkeys, the silence, the sound of trees talking to themselves and big plus, very few humans. The rest of the trip was mostly uneventful.  We took an auto ride where autos should never go to see views that were underwhelming. Plus though was that I got marriage and travelling advice from the driver. He did take us to a waterfall. Maybe waterfall should be in quotes. Cause there was really not much fall and very little water. Like all waterfalls, this had a tragic story of lovers committing suicide.

We ended our crazy auto ride with a tour of an organic, ayurvedic farm. The woman might have been the best salesperson I have ever met and a really tough school teacher. She snapped at A and me for giggling and not listening to her. We left amazed at her ability to sell products with a strong message that all illnesses will henceforth be cured. Amen.

As our trip began to come to a close, I began to feel uneasy again. Being away suddenly meant more calm than getting back to the routine. I was ready to run. Again.

The trip was an important reminder for me to look after myself; love myself more; be still to notice the smaller things; glance at the skies everyday around sunset; just keep swimming. Being still for a few moments everyday made me see that I had a lot of unresolved emotions. These things take time to heal. I was being impatient and wishing for it to end. But processes needed to be followed and slowly, I would see the end.

I am always glad to travel with my INFJ partner because she doesn’t react drastically to my breakdowns; and she is more giving than I will ever be. We are always greeted with some chaos on our trips. They never fail to make us laugh, reflect on life and bring us closer together.

Till our next trip and our next overwhelming chaotic life lesson, then.

Love, loss and chaos

Do you remember the date? I do. It was a dark day (or not) for me and a patient one for you. I was unhappy and masking my pain – like I always do. You were unhappy and forthcoming about it. I stayed up all night to fix the mess that I was in. You stayed up with me.

Grumbling. Teasing. Smiling. Laughing. Nudging. A rainbow of emotions.

I remember the links you sent; so typical of you. Videos, funny ones, were your famous escape route. We fought like we usually did, despite the videos. I don’t think I told you then that I had fallen for you.

But you knew. You mocked my resistance, laughed away my timidity and silently smiled in the cocky knowledge of it all. I sensed your impatience, waiting for me to come to terms with it. It would be long before I strung any words together affirming your assumptions. You threw a metaphorical party. It was more than wonderful.

I never told you this but the date stayed with me; long after you did. After all, it was the first time I acknowledged it. Even to myself.

I struggle now to reconcile the deep, love-filled memories (because they are worth remembering) with the emptiness of the current overwhelming feeling of loss. I know better than to dismiss it all. I know that hate or anger won’t help me right now. I impatiently wait to wrap my brain around the chaos. But this is all a lesson for me in patience, isn’t it? I don’t want to say it is a cruel one. I am tempted to rush into that narrative of pity and ‘oh look how bad things happen’. Not this time. It is just one that I needed to learn.

Chaos and loss take time to heal and settle. I need to take on this world one day at a time. With my best tough, brave face on.

It gets better.

2015.

(Disclaimer: Excruciatingly long)

Well, 2015 is coming to a close. On most counts, I am glad this year is done. Putting aside a brief two-week vacation to Nepal, to my enthusiasm, 2015 has been overwhelming on the low front. I had a couple of surprising heartbreaks, professional and personal, that shook my earthing. A few diagnoses were the additional bonuses on the health front! Woot.

When I used to write on Blogspot (before I wanted a clean start and began this blog), I did a year-end review. I thought it was a silly practise till my conversation with A from last evening made me realise how smart I used to be.

I get bogged down by the low a lot. Perhaps a little bit of this is in my nature. End-of-the-year existential crisis is common and tempting to wallow in. I have honestly done a lot of it. BUT, I learnt a lot this year.

Embracing my personality with all its quirks has been rewarding and relevant. I stopped making excuses when I didn’t feel up to being around people. Especially those I had drifted away from. I learnt to enjoy my company and do what is good for me which resulted in lots of art and getting my hands messy. I began to look after myself more. My health taught me that my mind and body are not separate. The pressures on my mind will be felt by my body. So care is not optional. It needs to be integrated into daily living. Smell a few more flowers, perhaps. Unfortunately, these health crises have forced me to give up sweets and coffee. Something till 2015 I thought was not possible. But I am finding new patterns and routines. Healthier ones. All while remembering that I am really tiny in the grand scheme of things. People tell me this insignificance scares them. But it has been one of the most reassuring and calming truths.

“When I go for a drive I like to pull off to the side
Of the road and run and jump into the ocean in my clothes
And I’m smaller than a poppyseed inside a great big bowl
And the ocean is a giant that can swallow me whole
So I swim for all salvation and I swim to save my soul
But my soul is just a whisper trapped inside a tornado
So I flip to my back and I float and I sing
I am grounded, I am humbled, I am one with everything”
– I like giants: Kimya Dawson

As a surprise to myself, I fell in love. Accidentally. Madly. To an unsuspecting bystander. Though it has left me recovering from a broken heart, it reminded me that I am intense and love is overwhelming. It was nice to sit drenched in the emotion and learn to just breathe. Let the pieces fall as they will. I am still learning to live with my intensity and even enjoy the depth of character that I seek. 🙂 Love dragged me along a long path of self-discovery which has been difficult, painful, stirring, and intimate in discoveries about myself.

My professional heartbreak is far more difficult to write about. Since most of the year and waking hours were spent at the office, learnings are integral to my growth. I had to quit a job that I was fond of because of grave internal turmoil, certain strife and need for more challenges. It became essential for me to embrace that I am young, emotional and vulnerable which people in workplaces often use against me as a weakness. I didn’t realise how much I had pushed these away. Over the years of hearing it being pitched as a negative, I had happily accepted this to be true. Not anymore. 🙂

One of the most unsettling truths of the year was revealed while stranded at the bottom of the Himalayas because of unseasonal rain and snow. Rainer Maria Rilke was the bearer of the news – ‘Life is right in all cases’. Rilke has rescued me on several occasions. His words were a float when I felt I would drown in the ocean of anxiety and self doubt. They were a balm to my soul that felt out of place, making me more home in my skin and less cuckoo. (Or is it be more cuckoo? :))

“Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a young poet

I also turned around my writing this year. It was a much needed change from the self-deprecating stuff I tell myself about lack of any talent. Though I write here, I had not written about the many learnings from my work and the world around me. Starting to write for Women’s Web and Girls Globe is an attempt to fix this. I am happy to add my two-cents to the progress to women’s rights and equality around the world. It is a small drop in the ocean, yet a satisfying drop.

I think writing these words was an important part of taking stock of the changes, both good and bad, the year brought my way. In the darkness of doubt, pain and unanswered questions, I have found it is comfortable to believe I had an unproductive year. One where I have been stagnant and done little to further my beliefs. But I have made a lot of personal growth and some professional strides. This forms part of a learning process to understand myself better and walk closer to the person I want to be.

Hope 2016 is less harsh but as rewarding.