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 123: Bumps 

Early morning bump

The OldMan decided to head back home much sooner than originally planned; Daddyma needed him more. I shudder thinking of the midnight conversation with him, when he caught me up with his newly made plan, with his slurring words. I knew I wouldn’t have been able to put up with another day of conflicting emotions anyway. So, I was up at 4, and he drew himself to the station while I sat along.

He managed to find an unreserved ticket, and a seat, with sufficient time for the train. So I headed out, slowly inching out of the train station and a cabbie in front of me navigates the hump very poorly and rolls back into me. Great start to the day!

A little argument and some yelling on my part down, and I no longer had a front number plate. For the rest of the way, I drove more watchful than before.

Mid-day bump

Since heading home from the dinner last night, I had a strange unease about the whole thing with SilverGhoster. That unease, coupled with the early morning train run, meant I slept poorly all night. All I wanted was to catch a decent snooze during the day, to recoup, and yet it failed me. At some point mid day, SilverGhoster and I connected, and the entire reason for my unease became evident; there were ill vibes coming my way and the universe has a way with such things anyway. Turns out that post dinner, he had met his pals, and updated them on the dinner. What followed was a barrage of teenage mockery, directed at my age, my body, my life choices and everything that lay in between. Like that wasn’t enough, he went home and a similar tirade came from the mother.

I accept that body, age or fat shaming is not new to me anymore and I’ve seen more than my fair share growing up. But I would be kidding if I said that it did not affect me. While one can put up a straight face, or laugh off the comment, something inside crumbles. In fact, as I think about it, something inside you builds another wall. Another layer of fortification is added, and you push yourself deeper behind shut doors. If you didnt face such negativity, you wouldn’t be hurt in the first place.

What annoys me is the triviality of the world. For one to be a friend with another, why would gender, age, orientation, or any such factor be of any importance? And who gave mankind the authority to always play the role of the high-horse, judging others as if it were their birth right? A 30 year old is not married yet, and something HAS to be wrong with her. She quits an enticing career, and she MUST have been kicked out for poor performance. Four years into her marriage and she still hasn’t popped a baby, and it HAS to be her fault. She finds a friend in a younger man and she HAS to be a cougar. The man is more well-off than her and she HAS to be after his empire. She is chubbier than the society approved size zero and she MUST have an eating problem.

If only we all spent our days looking into the mirror and judging, as much as we do otherwise, we’d be more gentle on others.

Dusk drive bump

All that riddling and puzzling left me in a dizzy all day, and I left for Valley School much later than I’d planned. I’m looking forward to spending the next week or so at the school, observing from close quarters the functioning of an alternative school. I started the drive on a great mood, knowing that running away from civilization, and toward such an environment might be the answer to all my problems.

Chatted with SilverGhoster on the way to Valley, talking about the complexities of relationships. It amused me to think of how certain relationships complicate our lives by simply caring too much. By being overbearing, you invariably push someone away. By being overly snoopy, you unconsciously force them to life. Little things that you don’t realize until you’re deep into it.

It was relieving to hear SilverGhoster revalidate my theory on the universe and its strange mysterious ways. It’s something that I’ve internalized over the years of heartbreaks and of talking to random men for the arranged marriage scenes. If the timing is not right, if the universe hasn’t sorted its plan for you, come what may, your trials would go in vain. And the opposite is true too. In that comfort, I rest for another day.

Wait a minute! You’ve gone back to bangalore already? Means I’m with dad and mom now? And I can beg for food to the entire neighborhood? 

Guffaaaw!” Scotch

Day 71: Morning hike

Dad, mum, Scotch and I went on a post-breakfast morning hike, up the Anuvavi hills. There’s a little temple mid way up the top that I remember going to as a kid as well. Remember my confusion with growing up and everything else looking smaller. It happened here too. I remember it to be much higher, steeper and more strenuous than what it actually was this time. 

What do you mean it was not that bad? I had to keep climbing and I thought it will end with every ten steps. But it went on and on. Think I counted a million steps up,  S” Scotch 

Day 56: Growing old with parents

I was 16 when I sat behind the wheels of a car for the first time. Our phoenix red Maruti Omni seemed like the perfect testing ground and I was super excited. We hit the under-construction inner-ring road post-midnight and after a few debacles with the clutch-accelerator pedals, we were go. And in a few, I was cruising down that road; it was a time when Bangalore did not have the manic traffic problems of today. I had heard from friends about the gears and shifting, and I was switching over seamlessly when my dad let out a strong yell and I hit the brakes immediately. 4th gear? I was just a newbie and I had switched to the top-most gear? We’ll wait for some hours of driving before we get there, OK?

 

Driving has always been portrayed as an overly-technical feat that requires extensive hand-eye-leg-brain coordination. Add to that the general societal stereotype about women driving and it is made to seem like a humongous achievement. When dad got his first car, the phoenix red Omni, mom got behind the wheel as well. To this day, her driving down the roads of Bangalore and Coimbatore are shared as humorous anecdotes in family gatherings. This comes mostly from relatives who have been driven around by their husbands all their life. When I came back to India and started driving again, I felt the need to ‘practice’ before I got on the road because of the huge task that driving on Indian roads was made out to be.

 

Add the importance attached to driving to the Indian mindset of gaining one’s parents’ approval to be considered successful, and I was always conscious about my driving around my parents. When the folks visited me in the US, there was always an extra attempt to be the responsible driver. A smooth lane transition, a successful overtaking maneuver or a last-minute save-our-lives braking and the ears were always perked to hear that nod of appreciation. Most drives were spent in utter silence, and I could feel my parents holding their breaths, not letting conversation distract their attention from the road. Somehow, the thousands of miles driven and the 8-hour non-stop drive back from Niagara falls were all validated only by the approval from the boss.

 

This week when the parents visited though, things seemed very different. The pressure was strangely gone. And they did not mind me driving them around as well. I did not have to do the usual fight when dad is around, to get into the driver seat. Very few have won that fight with him and I did not even have to make an effort this time. There was very little pillion-driving as well, and except for an occasional remark, they continued on their conversation, almost unaffected by the driving.

 

As I thought some more about this, I realized that we had all grown up a lot since that night from 2000. My parents had grown to accept me as an adult, specifically in the last few years. I had grown to accept them as human beings, with their fears and insecurities. We had grown confident in each other’s strengths, and weaknesses, and turned to each other for advice when needed. We knew when to hold off on those uncalled for suggestions. And i think that maybe my need to prove my worth to them was all in my mind after all. Maybe they knew from the beginning that was good at it; I was their child after all.

You will always have my nod of approval, S. Who else lets me sit up front while in the car!” Scotch 

Cliched… yet… Nostalgic….

It was a thought that struck at a weird moment..but i sat wondering…have i ever come across a synonym for ‘nostalgia’…? Was a tough squeeze…hit the aisles of google..to find out meanings like…’longing,yearning’..’homesickness’…? not quite an impact like ‘nostalgia’ itself….

Sure go back in time…a long time back..when wearing frilled and lacy frocks was okay…it was not an issue to get boys back home after school….when you dint think twice before stopping the local ice cream man for a native bite of ecstasy…It was a time when you needed just a tear to get your way…it was then when beating your sis up red and blue was totally ok…

I remember very little of times in the pink city…except that guy whom i made friends with, with no idea of the language he spoke…and of my dad comin back home all pink and wet one day, after a blast at holi…then there was that whole bunch of kites in the attic that got me interested for their mere colour and the vibrance that came along…vaguely remember one curfew that left us sittin at home with no school to worry about….

Then there was the move back home…a life amidst family….yeah we flew back i know…my first flight…but i remember none of that…
coz recently when i sat on that plane after nearly 18 long yrs…i felt like a kid on her first flight onboard…eagerly stared out of the window…and continued doin that till all the skyscrapers seemed miniscule…and eventually succumed to a blanket of white…then there was the pleasure of looking at the sun from the same level…it was a new sun..staring back at me…and that rush down your lungs when the plane travels the runway…woah..!!

Coming back to the stay at home…there was all that singing in that little school…arraying at the ground for prayer every morning…and remember that fish shop in the same road..from where we flooded the tank in our house with those lovely ones…Then i remember those drills in school that we prepared so rigorously for…to go off to the main branch..with starched white clothes..and crispy white shoes…to act smart with those kids…always won in that i know…

I remember hiding from that mad man who lived on the corner where the road turned…felt an urge to prove oneself courageous by looking into his house every time we passed that way..Then there was that outburst of excitement every time i heard the quiet thump of dads yezdi as it turned into the street…recollect playing the bully…forming the favorite groups every summer vacation…remember those weird in house plays that we put…with family playing audience and cheering for every crap we put up…oh..those summer vacations with cousins were fun…with all those back biting and ear pulling…miss them….

Till date i feel the move to hitech city was destined…to move away from all that politicing…but then it had its own memories too…the wait for holidays to welcome cousins home…and take them around the city…and then there is school…the place i learnt to live..remember runnin out at 5 when school closed…running out to waiting junk sellers….there was always that craving to buy everything out from the canteen…when all those rich kids dined there every other day…and for us it used to be a blessing to get enough money for that..morning assembly was a pain…roasting in the hot sun…with kids around fallin unconscious every other day and waiting to be able to do that ever….

Oh i remember that first cycle…it was a weird one running on four wheels…trying to hold me on….there was the embarrasing attempt to hide from classmates when i took that to school the first time..I used to chain it to the tree by the canteen i remember..Then was the move to a bigger one..Felt good with a nice big one..remember exploring a lot of the neighbourhood on it..with harini tugging at the back at times…Kept it till i left college..it took me up and down those dirty college streets…a winner it was….

I totally recollect that little house on the 2nd floor where we grew up…Still see it in my dreams…we eventually outgrew it…and shifted to that house in “layout”…Thats where we actually turned little adults…grew up to being children no longer…Dont remember doing any studying when there…coz i used to be tired for gods all day…going down two buses to that school on the other side of the town…gettin there was a different story all together…then there was that phase of being a misfit…and still finding some great friends…boy..!!

Yeah I remember a lot of that too..then i remember moving out…to college…to adolescence…to freedom….whatever….

hmmmm…Its always at a point where you have nothing else to do but write blogs that you seriously get thinking…and the past floods into you…and you manage to write crap…like how i have successfully managed to do right now…

If you’ve managed to read this far..then your as jobless as i am, i understand…Long live thee….