Category Archives: Memories

Can’t let it go…


“Change can be good but it’s always tough to let go of the past”
― Emily GiffinLove the One You’re With

“Renew, release, let go. Yesterday’s gone. There’s nothing you can do to bring it back. You can’t “should’ve” done something. You can only DO something. Renew yourself. Release that attachment. Today is a new day!”
― Steve MaraboliUnapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

P1210084 - CopyTime to thank the year for all its tests and lessons (not lessons and tests)!

Loss


DSCF1954The moments of solitude gather the very same thoughts I dread. Memories keep pecking and picking at me. They rub salt on the bruises over and over. The adamant wounds refuse to heal. It hurts.

I am not the first human to lose a parent. However for me the experience of losing someone I had known all my life was not like what I had expected it to be.

We were prepared – that’s what we all supposed. Prepared for what? To see him die? However, there was a lot more we were not prepared for. The void left behind by the departed one is unfathomable and alarming. I feel it now. Though trite, such statements about death seem to be gaining more depth at this point.

When I saw him on his last night (Oct. 10, the day I reached there), the glow in his eyes was on the wane. His eyes were open and gazing but I doubt whether they perceived anything. He was greedily devouring every bit of air. The laboured breath was not at all giving him any ‘satisfaction’, I could read his thoughts. Seeing his struggle I realized there is nothing more (mundanely) divine than to be able to breathe normally!

I could not believe I was looking at the same person I bid goodbye five weeks before.

What was in his mind? Did he have something to tell us?

While others tried to inform him about my arrival he kept on murmuring, “Aara? Aara?” (Who’s that?) Did he recognize me? No cue. He had no last words for me, not even my name. When I asked him if he needed something he clearly stated he did not. All communication was gradually coming to an end, so were his requirements. After all what was left to say and ask? Or, were all the untold words, the unexpressed feelings and fears choking him?

By the next morning it was as if his body had already given itself the pack up call. After two feeds we felt we were just filling in a body that was no more in need of such nourishment. The huge oxygen cylinder bubbled listlessly. He was perspiring with each variation in his body. We could read the changes even without the pulse/saturation meter (a device that is going to haunt me forever). And my sister asked me later, “What were we waiting for, monitoring the readings each minute?” Maybe there was nothing left to do other than just watch.

By noon the readings started hitting new lows.

Were we disturbing and distracting him with all our expressions of concern?

Around 5.30 in the evening I saw something gurgling in his mouth. He opened his eyes wide for the first time that day and stared up the ceiling one last time with tremendous effort. The numbers kept on descending. And then the next moment…    the meter had nothing to say except some meaningful/less dots… We knew it was all over.

The days and nights he spent in constant fear of the looming death came to an end. An entity that moved, thought, loved, hated, desired, planned, rejoiced, won, defeated, failed, created, ate, drank, fought for about eight decades finally gave up.

Did he have the courage to go alone?

The body was still warm and quivering with the last vestige of life left. And for the first time I saw an unusual serenity and stillness spread and then linger on his face. He was relieved of all strain and anxieties. Peace!

*   *  *

Even these thousands of miles in between me and his abode is not thick enough to prevent the agonizing memories from seeping in.

*   *   *

Life thrilled him as much as it failed and hurt him. The thrill came from his talents and the disappointment, from his expectations about life and people. He was never short of solutions, ideas, plans, preparations, stories. Nothing irritated him more than lack of punctuality and perfection. Was he punctual? Yes, to the core. Was he perfect? According to his unique parameters, yes.

I don’t intend to go for sentimental eulogies right now. I owe my life to my parents and I am grateful to my father for what I have inherited and learned from him. [Link]

He had been much more than an average human being and the impressions he left will pose real hard work for time to erase. I am not underestimating the powers of time. It’s just a month – obviously too early to forget a dear and near one.

[Link] And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

 

Invisible roots


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I had no idea
That I had grown
So many
Roots invisible
That supported
Sustained,
Tethered too -
Never letting go,
Smothering, pulling,
Whining, threatening,
Emotionally blackmailing!

Fed up,
I broke off,
Dreaming of new pastures
Unknown nourishment,
And experiences.

Now they haunt me -
The unseen ghosts
Of my Invisible Roots.
They blame me
Entice me
They whisper out loud
‘Come back!’

Some day I must,
And try to reconnect
The severed roots
One by one,

Patiently!

‘Self propelled flowers’


“Is it possible to become friends with a butterfly?”

“It is if you first become a part of nature. You suppress your presence as a human being, stay very still, and convince yourself that you are a tree or grass or a flower. It takes time, but once the butterfly lets its guard down, you can become friends quite naturally.”
Haruki Murakami

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“Butterflies are self propelled flowers. ”
― R.H. Heinlein

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“A fallen blossom
returning to the bough, I thought –
But no, a butterfly.”
― Arakida Moritake

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“You can only chase a butterfly for so long.”
― Jane Yolen

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“I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

How heartless of him! :D

My village


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rubber close

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Jack fruit 1

banana

Jathi

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Pulhi

wildflower

Bamboo

First-borns – Guinea Pigs?


Yesterday my first-born turned ten. And we (claim to have) successfully completed ten years of parenthood.

Has she been lucky or unlucky? In my opinion, for her it has been a combination of both.

How is she lucky? Usually the elder ones are the centres of attraction; they get all (or too much?) the attention from the parents and from the relatives too, if they are the first ones in a generation. They enjoy a lot of privileges – too many toys, dresses and other accessories. In fact it was we who were celebrating our new designations as papa and mama! Every achievement or turning point in the eldest ones’ lives is exaggerated and celebrated with all the pomp and vigour.

When it comes to the second one, the excitement would be slightly less. The parents have already been there and for them it is merely a repetition of the first episode. But sadly they are too busy to remember it’s the very first time for each of the younger ones. Being the second-born I have been through it all. (Eldest ones out there, I can read your thoughts.)

And there are a lot of health benefits too. They will be made of healthier and better components of life. The later ones are born to older and more tired parents.

[The given link will enlighten you more on the topic of birth order.]

But here I am more bothered about the seamy side of the first-borns’ lives. For the naive parents it is a time to experiment upon a hundred new things, certainly out of their love and eagerness. I must admit that bringing up my big girl I have committed a lot of parenting errors, mainly in the two crucial areas – health and education.

As tyros in that new phase of life we were naturally over-concerned about each and every aspect, especially her health. We surmised that every sneeze, cough or runny nose would end up in pneumonia, and rushed to the doctor who was only too eager to administer heavy doses of antibiotics. The recurrence of the ailments taught us some valuable lessons equipping us better for the second one. It made me bold and taught me how to resist temptation to grab the medicines each time.

And the second most fatal mistake I committed was the over-enthusiasm about her studies. When she got confused with P, b, d and 9, or when she flipped over certain letters, (at the age of three!) we often freaked out as if she was going to be doomed. When she could not discern the basic differences between numbers and letters, faltering at the questions like “Which is bigger – 2 or 7?” we seemed to be anxious about the Board after ‘12’ years!!  While we were passionately carrying out our duties, for her it must have been hell!

After her last PT meet (grade 5) as I was proudly looking at the 100% score in her Maths paper, I once again realized the benefits of intruding less and leaving everything to her. It was the fruit of her own hard work.

At times my younger one has to be satisfied with the used toys and dresses. However she enjoys a happier and more carefree childhood – only because her parents’ attention is divided and she has an elder sister who was already ‘guinea pig’ged!

Happy birthday dear! Thank you for all the great lessons you taught me in a decade’s time…

Not again!


You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”
Cormac McCarthy, The Road

“The only thing faster than the speed of thought is the speed of forgetfulness.”
Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration

It happened again – ending up in one more embarrassing episode.

Before that, over to some flash back. Once I was introducing a new teacher to our staff. I had already started from one end when I caught sight of my friend, one of the senior teachers, sitting at the other end, to realize with horror that I could not recollect her name! I had two options before me – either avoid her or ask her name secretly. The consequences of both would have strained our relationship. I frequently glanced at her as I nervously performed my duty, giving myself enough time to rake through my brain. Thank God, by the time I reached her, the name struck me and I heaved a sigh of relief.
That was eight years back. Now my system is older and thereby slower.

 The latest setting is the dentist’s office. The doctor was concluding the third session discussing the fate of my teeth. There came the fatal question. ‘Which toothpaste do you use?’

BOOM! System error!

In the next moment my screen went blank, as if under the ambush of some unknown bug. What is the name of the toothpaste I use every day?!!

Desperately I enabled my search engines, though, as it always happens during emergency situations, the operation was annoyingly slow. I could visualize everything – the tube of toothpaste among my toiletries, the colours on it, the racks which displayed that brand at the supermarket, its ads on TV, the gift hamper of the same product we got recently… but strangely everywhere its name seemed blurred. What a catastrophe!

I prayed for a miracle - let the phone ring, or let someone knock at the door, or at least erase the question from her! 

The doctor might have read my thoughts before she asked, ‘Is it the name of your toothpaste that you are trying to recall?’ Sluggishly I nodded.

I could hear my heart pounding surmising her thoughts – ‘Is this patient illiterate? May be she brushes rarely. No wonder her teeth are infected.’

 ‘You do brush every morning, eh?’ What can be more humiliating to a person who prides herself in the amount of time spent daily on dental hygiene? Even though I said I do, from her mischievous smile I inferred that she hadn’t swallowed my word as such. You can rightly forget the name of any other product but that of your toothpaste, the first branded thing you take into your hands on any day.

The revelation that should have dawned on me heartlessly switched sides and unveiled itself to her. ‘Is that C*****?’ Exactly! Incredible! Oh Memory, this is not fair.

Short term memory loss has vexed me many a time during the exams. Straining  my memory only worsened the condition. And once out of the exam hall, the misted answers would easily surface, but in vain!

But dear Memory, the current event is defamatory. Well, I will always bear this in mind, if you are generous enough.

I absolutely don’t believe in anything. Full stop. Including luck.
Al Alvarez

And when they met again…


For years
They were one friendly flock
‘Of a feather’.

Then it was time to part -
Autographs, promises, tears,
Farewell, well fared.
And they flew away
In fifty diverse routes.

Years thence
They met again, virtually.
Longed to make it real.
Yearned to relive those days.
Planning, preparations…

Then the great day came,
Birds flocked again.

How tired and old each had grown!
Feeble smiles and hollow words
Couldn’t gloss over the chasms.

What went wrong?

They had outgrown their nest,
Moreover, they were no longer
Birds of a feather.

Time and experiences
Had painted them all different -
The dull ones with bright shades
And the bright ones with not-so-bright.
Each flaunted its hard-earned hues.
No wonder it turned irksome.

Disappointed, dispersed again,
This time, for good.

Editing Nostalgia


How do you make use of your past, I mean, your distant past whose wounds are long cauterised?

We merrily let ourselves stray to the (so-claimed) picture-perfect days of our distant past, only to dwell upon the deterioration of modern times. How many of you could solemnly assert that, in every sense your past outshines your present?

Some recent insights have gainsaid a few of my long-cherished convictions, the most striking one being those about my school life.

It’s true that my school used to obsess my thoughts as a green pasture. But ask me what I enjoyed there, and you find me groping for words. All I could dig up is hardly a handful of such jolly instances juxtaposed with a longer list of scathing or scary ones!

No resentment. No plans to pay back. Because if things went wrong for me they were merely the reflections of my attitude – years later I am mature enough to say so. Now looking at the educational system from a teacher’s standpoint, it is quite lucid why the abilities of timid students are rarely ferreted out and thereby go unsung, especially when they have no feathers of academic excellence to sport on their mortar boards. I was one of those few diffident lads later doomed to repeatedly chant “If I had been more …

Then why all the hoodwinking, while reality has always been plain as day?

This is how my conscience puts it across. “You feared getting stamped and sidelined as the black sheep when it is customary to exalt school life. The easy way out was to feign a happy teenager and keep on crooning: Oh, how I wish to be a school girl once again!”

  • Nostalgia is an emotional state in which an individual yearns for an idealized or sanitized version of an earlier time period.

That well expounds it. We idealize or sanitize our past. Communication experts term it Selective Retention. We retain only what makes us happy while we connive at the bitter ones. When the present turns grim, our conscience turns to the past for solace.

But what if both past and present are equally despicable? Patch up the past, and tag it ‘nostalgia’. If you can make yourself fanatically believe in your renovated past, you are nostalgically happy. Cool!

  • Nostalgia is excessively sentimental yearning for return to or of some past period or irrecoverable condition.

Nostalgia is the haven of the ‘excessively sentimental.’ Note that it is far from reality as it is just a yearning for something lost forever.

Even history has  repeatedly been subject to this sanitising process. So I can excuse myself, a ‘nobody’, for that fib about my school life.

What about the other places/persons in my nostalgia-list? Scrap them too?

Thank God I was not so ill-starred to go to that extent. I would rather accept my past with all its lapses, than laud them to utopian levels. We and our lives have never been perfect, so why should we strive to sanitize our past or feed ourselves on lies when that won’t, in the least, improve our present?

A wounded soul returning for revenge – that’s just fiction, I believe. The past won’t/can’t hurt forever.

Learn that nostalgia is a “sign of old age, extolling the past at the expense of the present” (Sydney Smith).

I am not old, and I have proved it. What about you?

Caesar and My Tooth


[A true story, poignant enough to move even the toughest.]

Caesar and Tooth - both were acclaimed for their ‘true-fix’d and resting quality’ (as ‘constant as the northern star’ would be a befitting simile). They firmly believed ‘the things that threaten’ them shall vanish when their faces are seen (Titanic syndrome).

When trouble started brewing, heavens did ‘blaze forth’, foreboding the concerned parties. The augurers and well-wishers urged them to heed the unnatural incidents. Nonetheless they comforted themselves uttering, “Death, a necessary end, will come when it will come.”

Mrs. Caesar lamented, “Alas my lord, your wisdom is consumed in confidence”. My conscience alerted Tooth, “Your wisdom(-tooth) will be consumed by your confidence.” And this is how the story went on.

An assortment of conquests, glories and triumphs were there to the credit of Caesar and to that of Tooth. Both had bravely prevailed over decades of decays, adversities, hostilities and assaults (from within and without) without any sort of weariness or grudge. How many hard nuts they had crushed down to paste!

History repeats – how true! Honourable Chips was always Tooth’s dear, trusted friend. Nobody ever suspected the integrity of that friendship.

The conspiring Sweets took Chips into confidence and made him believe the unattested stories they had cooked up against Tooth. No wonder Chips decided to join hands with them in the conspiracy to finish him off. Tooth was lured into it with the offer of a ‘crown’(which he had refused thrice!). Poor Tooth, he was not informed that the price he should pay for the crown was his own roots! What a Machiavellian ploy!

On that cursed day they stormed on my Tooth. Even when the Sweets almost stabbed him to death the great conqueror fought back with all his might.
And then it happened unawares– the ‘well-beloved’ Chips too followed suit! The bosom friend’s stab reduced him to a ‘bleeding piece’ of calcium and enamel. This act is oft referred to as the ‘most unkindest cut of all.’ Ingratitude quite vanquished him and he succumbed. What a fall!!

“Et tu Chipse’!”- these were his last words.

That happened ten years ago. And till date the enormous gap left behind by him remains VACANT! I can’t let an imposter take up his place – I have to prove my fidelity.
(Dedicated to the memory of my beloved Molar that had to be extracted after I rashly indulged in a week-long treat of sweets and banana chips during an Onam season!)

Picture courtesy: Subeka Ahmed (my student)