Day 143: The first

I held his hand gently and walked him to the bed. The bed was a clear two inches taller than needed. He let his weight fall on my right hand as he propped himself up on the bed. Sitting up with a slight droop, legs dangling over the edge of the bed, he casually tossed his flip flops aside. He giggles like a little boy at his giant man-sandals on my feet; I’d insisted on exchanging them before we went in. He undoes the first two buttons of his shirt, looking around in search of those familiar eyes.

Is she not going to come in?

In a bit. She’s taking care of a few things first.

*giggles* She’s scared, I know.

His eyes scan the corners of the room, registering the familiar and the new.

Are you scared?

No, no. What’s there to be scared of? I’ve done this already. Once!

He sounds confident, almost touching on arrogance. I pump up the pillows behind him, quietly suggesting he lie down on the bed. He looks behind him, pulls up another pillow on top of this one, and rests his back on the bed.

He looks surprised when she appeared out of nowhere, pulled a light blanket over him till his chest and disappeared. His fingers fumble on top of the blanket as his eyes scan around the room.

Don’t you have other things to do than this?

Haha! No, I’m going nowhere. I’m a little nervous though. They tell me it hurts, especially the first time. Is it true?

You won’t get anything in this life without some pain. We should learn to bear a little bit of pain, no? But it’s usually over before you know it.

I repeat his words in my head to reassure myself. At the foot of the bed, I see his legs dangling out, shaking to some mental tune. My thoughts drift to her and I wonder if I should go check on her for a bit. The blanket lady walks in, touches his arm gently, checks on him, smiles at his surprised face and ambles out, nonchalantly. He looks around, absent-mindedly putting his buttons all the way up to his neck.

I wonder if he was cold and tuck him in on the sides. He flinches and I back off, wondering if I’d overstepped my limits.

It’s a little crowded in here, no? I don’t know if I’m hot or cold. Can we take this blanket off? Oh! But it is cold; I should leave this on, I guess.

Do you want me to call someone?

No, but this pillow… My back hurts.

Why don’t we incline this bed a bit? Here, better?

Hmm, slightly.

Do you want to move up a little? Your feet are dangling far off the bed.

Involuntarily he sticks his hand out and I hold it, as he hoists himself higher up on the bed. His feet are still off the bed but I think he looks a little more comfortable now. The door creaks open and she walks in; he straightens a little under the sheets. She smiles sheepishly and he returns the look.

It’s getting all crowded in here now. I think you guys should leave. It’s almost time, anyway.

I stand rooted to my ground. I realize he’s trying to get us all out of the room under false pretense.

It’s not time yet. Will be around for a bit longer.

We turn around together as she waves and leaves, the door creaking behind her. His blanket is down to his waist and he looks a little flustered.

Think it’s time you removed that shirt. Why don’t you?

Oh! You sure?

I help him slide his shirt off from his back. I feel like he’s wearing a few sizes too large. Or had his body gone down a few shirt sizes!

He sits upright on the bed, his back no longer resting comfortably on the pillow. He holds his chest tight with his right hand, looking at me with pleading eyes. The blanket lady walks in, holds his other hand and soothes his nerves. I slowly rub his back as I ask him to relax. He sways forward and back like a little boy waiting for his turn to go up on stage.

I don’t think we should do it now. It’s a big mistake. Can we leave and come back another day?

Relax! You’ll be fine. Don’t think too much about it. Just let it happen.

No! I can’t sit down anymore. Can I stand, please?

Blanket lady and I hold him up as he steps down from the bed. He lets the blanket casually fall down on the ground. He takes a few deep breath and I sense his composure returning.

Is it time yet?

I look at his frail body, fragile skin wrapped around bones,wondering when age had caught up this soon. I walk with him slowly into the other room, holding his arm tight as he stabilizes his footing. The table has been set ready, waiting for him. He lets go of my hands, walks over confidently and sits on the table.

Eyy! No visitors in the operation theatre, he yells, as the nurses around giggle.

All the best, daddy! I give him a tight hug and run out.

I turn around as the door closes behind me. He lies down on the operating table, as the doctors place the anesthesia nozzle on his nose. The door slams shut.


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 

Day 97: I looked at him and it was love at first sight 

Sunday, lazy Sunday. Spent lunch time watching this documentary on Netflix about Bhagwan Osho Rajneesh. I saw it pop up in the suggestions and immediately thought of the hilarious dinner time conversations at Bhor, with SPD recommending trips to the ashram in Pune, especially the sessions behind the white flowy curtains.

Turns out they were real sex therapy sessions, where Rajneesh proposed his sanyasins (he preferred the common female gender to all his followers) let their bodies free in order to free their souls. The documentary had revelations from the long-time bodyguard and the long-time secretary for the human-god, and was insightful on the movement in the 70s and 80s, what is often referred to as the pop culture.

I’ve never had any real respect for self-proclaimed gods, and this gentleman was no different. He was guilty of everything, from sex with minors, to sex with too many partners, to visa fraud, voter fraud, and indulging in narcotics. When his secretary and bodyguard left him, he even accused them with the intent of maligning their almost non-existent reputation.

The documentary was well shot, including many real video snippets from the ashram archives. Hippy followers, smoking weed, walking around with beads and rudrakshas were abundant, and it was almost hilarious watching them react in unconscious submission as ‘the bhagwan’  touched them at their various chakras as a part of his therapy sessions.

Belief, especially blind belief, makes us do weird things. The ex-bodyguard speaks of how he lost almost 30 years of his life, and most of his family and friends, in following the guru around India and the USA. A question he often asks himself is when did it stop being about spirituality and start getting weird. And he says, he realized too late that it had always been weird. He had just not seen it soon enough.

The secretary, who left her guru after his demands became unmanageable, speaks fondly of her first meeting with the Saint. A young girl of 20, her father took her along to meet him, and it was love at first sight. She saw the Saint and knew that he was her lover.

Oh God!

Can you keep the volume down, please? Human demi-gods come and go. But a Sunday for napping comes only once a week.” Scotch 

Day 27: Of new beginnings and gardens 

Hurried post. Sorry! 

Met folks at the station today and they got me thinking. There’s a beautiful opportunity for them now to spend time raising a garden in the backyard. They could even build a terrace garden and grow their own veggies. How exciting is that? 

I think I dreamt of that garden while asleep tonight. Love! 

So, you met dad and mum? When are they coming back to pick me up?” Scotch 

Sahana, Santana and beyond.

It all came back in rushes, that one doomed day.

It was either the fact that I was up since 4AM (somehow reminded my brain of the old Diwali days, I guess) or a recent conversation that I had with pEePeE, that got me hooked on to a totally different wavelength of music. Definitely not a genre new to me, since it is customary for every Iyer household to make sure their daughters learnt carnatic music or Bharatnatyam and their sons knew how to play the mridangam. But I surprised myself by listening to M S Subbulakshmi, K J Yesudas, and the likes, all day, reeling in the memories attached to each of those songs.

The earliest memories are brought to life by Yesudas’ rendition of Harivarasanam and SPB’s Aayar Paadi Maaligaiyil. They some how remind me of early days in the Rock City, when I was too young to comprehend good from bad. These “had to be” the tunes the Gods sang to put us to sleep each night, tired from vandalising the neighborhood. It is the same tranquilizing calm I feel every time I listen to these songs. I close my eyes and see myself running through tiny rooms, the walls distinctively highlighted by our crayon artwork. There is a baby-swing hanging bang in the center of the bedroom with the life size mirror in one corner. Bang Center? Wait! Where would that place the fan? Interesting! Heck that’s how I remember it, so it stays. I run out into the make-shift portico and stare out of the grilled partition. God’s Yezdi stands under the neem tree, three, or was it four, floors down. Or was it peepul? Was there a tree at all?

Pancharatna Kritis, unquestionably, remind me of days in the Garden City. Summers in the at-home summer camp, with mid noon walks up to the temple, only to practise for the umteenth time. I remember all the coloring books, action figures and the ingenious games waiting for us, with dimple studded faces, while we sat there singing the same lines over, till we got the perfect twist and got it in unison, as a group. Those gruelling sessions definitely helped the ones who eventually took their art to the stage. But for poor disinterested me, they were but distractions, the bridges between me and my interests; surprisingly similar to work in today’s mindset.

Entharo gets specific mention among the others in the set. Not as much for being the sweet kriti, marking the end of the long and tiresome lineup, as for being the one that reminds me of God, every single time. I can still picture him in every other place that he would tune it up and sing along, head rocking in every direction, hands zestfully tapping along.  We could see him get the same degree of pleasure listening to it, as H would out of Santana. Or is it Metallica now?

Snap! and I was back to triage calls and post deploy validation. The wheel keeps on turning doesn’t it! This is where the day stands clear in my mind. As I listened to each song, humming along and redoing some of those almost forgotten tricks with the tunes, I realized that deep down inside I missed it. All of this felt like an integral part of who I was, what my upbringing was and I was worried that with each passing generation, this rich tradition was going to slowly fade away. Would that leave me with grand children in thrash bands?

Had I listened to God’s Ma’s wishes and given up studies to take up her passion, would I have made it big? Would I have had records to my credit and a fan following to live for? We would never know. Would I have had the pleasure of turning to something apart from the lame work I go to everyday? Would this have kept me going through some dark, gloomy days? Would this have earned me a new boy friend? We would never know that, either.

Would all these questions stop me from listening to them again? No. That much I was sure; for at the end of the day, I had enjoyed myself thoroughly, not once missing the Maidens and Metallicas of the other world.

So I live a king’s life indeed; Vishnu sahasranamam to wake me up and Dire Straits to lull me to sleep. Rich in all the music around me after all. And who is not!