Day 122: Journeys

Driving with the OldMan

The short vacation ended sooner than I anticipated and it was time to be back in the TrafficCity. Even before the blues of having to go back set in, the OldMan proposed his plan of coming along to attend some of colleague’s grand event. So, I had a driver.

I thought of a strange conversation I had many many years back, where I told Dodo that he was only my third favorite driver, after my dad, and Michael Schumacher. Driving back, I didn’t feel all that confident anymore? He drove at 140 and was of course completely in control. He braked on time and overtook like a pro. And yet, I wasn’t confident. After a while, I fake slept so that I wouldn’t have to imagine my death at every turn.

Was I relating his drinking habit to his waning driving skills? He himself did mention a reduction in reflexes. Was his age really catching up? Were my biases catching up with me?

As I sat opposite the OldMan at Nagarjuna, quietly observing him lost in thought while eating, I felt an eerie feeling of pity take over me. For the last few years, I have been slowing inching away from him, for reasons I’ve ranted out before. As my principles and ideologies solidified, I realized how opposite they were to his; that automatically made us on opposite camps. But sitting there at lunch, I felt a deep connect to his troubles.

I felt like the weakling in the family, always trying to compete and prove my worth. I felt like the failure son that could never be enough for a stickler father, and now the conservative brothers . I felt like the outcast that fell in love and wanted to marry before an older brother had. I felt the pain of the sole bread winner, lugging three women around, and fending for their every need. I felt the pressure of an underpaid job that kept me on the road for 20 days a month, and still did not give enough. I felt the pinch of the rising prices and the growing needs of the daughters. It hurt me when the teenage daughter rebelled and talked back. It stung when the adolescent called me the worst dad yet. I remembered how my inability to give them a more comfortable life caught on and was discussed much later. It pained me to think that my wife was more comfortable speaking about my troubles to someone else in the family, than to me. It hurt me to think that all three could lead a life on their own now, and didn’t really need me.

I felt the pain. Something inside me stirred a little too deep.

SilverGhoster’s birthday and beyond

SilverGhoster turned a year older and a dinner was due. It felt like a Boondock kinda evening, reveling in the classics of an era gone by. As I look back at the night, and the conversations from the dinner, there is an odd familiarity about it all. It felt like we had been this way for years, and this was just another dinner. We talked about cars, mothers, shitty curriculum, dowry system, growing up, growing old, friends, foes, food and whatnot. I realized that with Switch, H, and Dodo all gone, I missed this the most – the random musings under the sun. In fact, I lost Dodo on that front a long time back. I feel the conversations touch on some mundane topics these days, topics that don’t resonate beyond a basic courtesy level. This night, it felt right.

A little part of me wondered if this could lead to something more than just conversations. A major part of me smacked itself in the head, reminiscent of the heart breaks of the past, and the societal anguishes and the battles that lay ahead. Between us, we had the paradoxes, too alike and yet absolutely different from each other. He was the conformist while I had a rebel blood oozing out of every vein. He was the calculated, capitalist businessman, while I was the dreamer who wanted to move to an island and learn to swim. He wanted the machines and the money, and I’d give it all up for the peace of mind. We were poles apart.

Yet, the other Gemini twin smirked and reminded me of the poles that intertwined within me. If the opposites can co-exist within, why could they not thrive in two bodies outside? The rebel wanted to reach out and see if the connect existed, but the loner drew the shutters down and mourned.

Had my heart aged beyond repair so much that it did not want any more battles? Wouldn’t that leave me alone for the rest of my life; any relationship comes with its heart breaks? Was I ready to be my own support system when all was dark and bleak? Was I just imagining the demons in the shadows when at the end of the day the universe had it all sorted out? It always does sort things out on its own. Was the cosmos smiling animatedly as I shook his hand briefly, got out of the car and ran home, lest I do something stupid?

You don’t really have to be alone, S. What is life without a warm shoulder to lean on during the cold and dull nights? 

Fine, that’s your leg, I know. But you get the point, right?” Scotch 

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Day 121: Respect Shespect

I see the OldMan going through a major life struggle, something that is affecting him so heavily that it is evident in his every interaction with the family; especially with the OldLady. He is invariably aloof, struggle with his inner demons through the day. He lazes around during the day, making minimum conversations with us. When forced to participate, he generally snaps or spits his answers out. He’s given enough of those that OldLady responds in an equally frustrated manner. For a third person, their conversations qualify for a road-side brawl between sworn enemies.

He diligently dresses up at sundown and steps out for his daily dose of intoxicants. With it in the system, he suddenly gets very verbose, would like to know what my life plans are, would advice H on her marital woes and would push OldLady’s buttons some more. The daily drama is painful, an all too evident sign of a crumbling relationship. And yet, he finds no value in salvaging it.

It would have been much easier if I were able to relate to either sides; I would have easily picked a person to support and fought the other. Unfortunately, I’m unable to see either positions of view. I do not understand why one would resort to escape routes to sort their life struggles. I do not understand how one would blame their family for all their life’s sufferings when they would be nothing without the family in the first place. I, in fact, do not even know if that is the reason for all the melancholy. On the other side, I do not understand how one could be so submissive for these many years, without a voice of their own. I definitely do not understand a woman building her entire life around one man, making him her Achilles’ heel.

I do not understand relationships.

Humans are so complicated, S. All this yelling and screaming and loving and doving. Why! 

Eat, Sleep, Repeat, remember?” Scotch 

Day 66: Breaking point

You never really know when you’ve had enough and it’s breaking point. It happens suddenly and yet slowly, it surprises you and yet you know it was inevitable all along. Things build up, one on top of another, very soon and they all rest on this narrow and flimsy foundation made up of your ideologies, principles, past experiences and relationships. The narrower and more flimsy this base is, the sooner the entire mountain of thoughts, ideas, worries and fears that you are carrying around begin to sway, gently at first. You still keep piling them on, confident that your base will hold enough, for all those thoughts, ideas, worries and fears need to find a resting place after all.

Before you know it, your pile is sky-high and sways from side to side like a sail boat caught in a storm. As more and more of your fears are realized, or dreams are squashed, little pieces of that already flimsy foundation are chipped away, and the vicious cycle continues. At what point are you ready to ask for help?

The drive back with garden_man got me thinking about my own flimsy base and if the swinging needed immediate attention. I pondered on how ready I was to get help, and more importantly, if I was ready to hear the things that I would hear at the end of such a session. The pondering continues.

But, an important realization that came from our discussion was about how society, and even our immediate family, perceives this external help that one would need to reorient oneself time and again. The very mention of a therapist typically brings references to a mental asylum, probes on the head, and looney meds. Parents still question why children can’t speak to them about their problems, instead of seeking out an external therapist. Aren’t they just glorified listeners anyway? There’s always the question about each individual’s pain tolerance, and a comment about how each subsequent generation was only becoming weaker and weaker. The society wonders if the media and knowledge abundance has made us overthink simple matters, and thus complicate our own lives. Someone that visits a therapist is met with more disbelief and scorn that the gentleman queueing up in front of a toddy shop at 10 Am.

The National Mental Health Survey conducted by NIMHANS in 2015-2016 states that 1 in 20 people in the country suffer from some form of depression. Depression was pretty high in females, those between the age of 40-49, and those residing in urban metropolitan cities. It also reported that except for God’s Own Country, all other states did not even have 1 psychiatrist for every 1 lakh of their population. The low number of trained mental health professionals along with poor awareness campaigns on the matter of mental hygiene would automatically result in the continuing stigma attached to these issues concerning the mind.

Until care and concern is more readily available, we will have more people treading that fine line between sanity and utter chaos; people dancing around the breaking point, almost tipping over.

You humans are brutal, man. I know! Us doggies have very little things wearing us down.

You know what we say, if something is troubling you, just pee on it and walk away. You should try it too.” Sri Sri Scotch Baba