Life, Death and Everything in Between…

Death has been my constant companion since September last year. No, I didn’t lose anyone close to me except Ak last year but every death, close or distant takes me to that familiar, heart crushing state of grief. The same thing happened today with the passing of the marvelous actor Irrfan Khan. Although it is the most certain thing known to all natural beings, death is really incomprehensible. Even with the knowledge that cancer, particularly the one Irrfan was suffering from was most certainly fatal, none of us were expecting to hear such terrible news. Or does it feel worse, because 2020 has already treated us with so much mess? This does feel like a personal loss to me. So did many things that happened in the past few months, be it the death of a neighbour I hardly spoke with, or that of a plant I looked upon as a symbol of hope. Ever since last year I’ve cried for every person/animal I see dying on screen. I have always been touchy on the subject of death and have shed a tear or two in movies but this sense of familiarity with grief is such a new thing for me. I can’t believe I spent twenty eight years without knowing grief, how incredibly lucky of me!

The world is going through a dark time right now. Every day is filled with news of numerous deaths, uncertainty and a feeling of impending doom. It has been really difficult for me to write anything after whatever happened. Even writing these few lines has been a real pain. I spent lots of time online looking for ways to deal with grief in the past few months (along with several queries on ghosts, afterlife, tarot cards, Ouija boards and whatnot). I found a quote by a user named Gsnow on a subreddit, and I go back to read it several times. I don’t know if it matters to anyone, but I would like to write this down somewhere, more for me than for anyone else.

“Alright, here goes. I’m old. What that means is that I’ve survived (so far) and a lot of people I’ve known and loved did not. I’ve lost friends, best friends, acquaintances, co-workers, grandparents, mom, relatives, teachers, mentors, students, neighbors, and a host of other folks. I have no children, and I can’t imagine the pain it must be to lose a child. But here’s my two cents.

I wish I could say you get used to people dying. I never did. I don’t want to. It tears a hole through me whenever somebody I love dies, no matter the circumstances. But I don’t want it to “not matter”. I don’t want it to be something that just passes. My scars are a testament to the love and the relationship that I had for and with that person. And if the scar is deep, so was the love. So be it. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are a testament that I can love deeply and live deeply and be cut, or even gouged, and that I can heal and continue to live and continue to love. And the scar tissue is stronger than the original flesh ever was. Scars are a testament to life. Scars are only ugly to people who can’t see.

As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After a while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, a street intersection, the smell of a cup of coffee. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or landing at O’Hare. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out.

Take it from an old guy. The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too. If you’re lucky, you’ll have lots of scars from lots of loves. And lots of shipwrecks.”

I don’t know how many shipwrecks I am yet to face in life but love will see me through.

This Is Not The End…

Have you ever noticed when a celebrity commits suicide, there is a flood of comments on social media by fans or friends like

  • Wish we had known he/she was depressed, we could have saved him
  • Oh, his/her songs were all about how he was feeling, why didn’t we notice it earlier
  • He/she should have talked about it

I don’t think anyone really understands what goes on inside the mind of a depressed person. Most people do talk about the hardships they are going through but I guess the world just fail to notice it. We hear things, but we don’t really listen!

I would be lying if I say that I don’t think about dying. I do. No, I am not exactly suicidal but sometimes “the end” seems like a fair option. The worst part however is, it is just not a viable option for me. Some days ago I read a quote on twitter that said, “When you give up on life, you don’t end the pain, you just transfer it to someone else”, and I don’t want to be the reason for someone’s pain. And to be honest, after spending so many years struggling with life, I don’t want to give up now. What if I die without seeing any happiness in life? What a waste of life it would be! Whatever tough times I am going through, these won’t last forever right! What if I accept darkness right before dawn! Matlab yaar, jiye bina hi mar gayi toh kya fayda?

This is what I think majority of the times.

And then, there are other days, those that brings another failure, that crush another hope and my mind goes into a negative spiral. What if I am supposed to be a failure all my life? What if this darkness consumes me entirely? It doesn’t help that the guy is going through similar stuff and is stuck in a more complicated spiral than me. And so when both of us feel low, we talk about death, and then we laugh and then we plan and then we laugh again. What a twisted sad little couple we are! And because among the two of us, I read more stuff on the internet than him (and is more woke) so I inspire him with little anecdotes like,

  • We have reached so low that the only way now is Up…
  • There is always a storm before the rainbow…
  • It is darkest before the dawn…

Blah blah blah…

And so, I take upon myself the unfathomable task of keeping two people alive, hopeful and happy with what they have.

And while doing so, I get to talk to nobody. I am not complaining about this, neither am I saying that people have abandoned me. To be honest, I have abandoned others. I don’t know if any of you relate to this but I feel like as we grow older, we just lose the connection we used to have with our old friends/acquaintances. I just don’t connect to anybody anymore. Even if I try to tell someone how I feel, I know that I am being judged rather than being understood. And so I tread alone…

Jodi tor dak sune keu na ashe,

Tobe ekla cholo re…

(If no one answers your call, then walk alone …)

And so, I turn to this blog to let my heart out, to tell you that I am suffering and however hard I try not to write sappy stuff out here, I fail to do so. I don’t want to write these things here because several of my friends know about this blog. I don’t know if anyone among them still reads it, but I don’t want to let them know about the state I am in right now. Call it my ego or whatever, I don’t want anyone’s sympathy, especially the people who actually think they know me in real life. I don’t think people who go through tough times, want to be sympathised for it. They may want to be understood but isn’t that a lot to expect in this kalyug!

Anyway, this is it with my rant! I am okay. Okay is a word I relate to a lot. It says so much without actually saying anything.

This was not a call for help. This was just a way for my future self to know that life sucked big time in my past but it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Or agar end mai sab okay na ho, to wo end nahi hai, picture abhi baaki hai mere dost….

The Living and the Dead

The Golden Light

I hope that in the future they invent a small golden light that follows you everywhere and when something is about to end, it shines brightly so you know it’s about to end.

And if you’re never going to see someone again, it’ll shine brightly and both of you can be polite and say, ‘It was nice to have you in my life while I did, good luck with everything that happens after now.’

And maybe if you’re never going to eat at the same restaurant again, it’ll shine and you can order everything off the menu you’ve never tried. Maybe, if someone’s about to buy your car, the light will shine and you can take it for one last spin.

Maybe, if you’re with a group of friends who’ll never be together again, all your lights will shine at the same time and you’ll know, and then you can hold each other and whisper, ‘This was so good. Oh my God, this was so good.’

– Iain Thomas

(Random things we read in the Internet sometimes fit perfectly in our own life)

Remembering Bhola…

If there is one gift that I am blessed with, it’s the ability to forget, especially those people or moments that make me sad. I have this tremendous power to isolate bad memories and keep them in a hidden corner of my brain. Those memories become alive only when I want them to, or when similar instances happen.

But today I choose to write about Bhola here, because he deserves a space in my blog, for being a child to my parents when I wasn’t there with them. Those of you who have followed me from my initial days know about him, my companion and friend, Bhola. Well, he is no longer with us. It’s been two months since he left home and never came back. He was almost five years old, and had grown old and physically weak. He had lost one leg, while fighting with a devilish cat in our neighbourhood. That cat was primarily the reason why Bhola suffered in his last days with us. Every time I see that cruel cat, my temper soar sky high and I wish to kill him. But I know that won’t bring my Bhola back.

Bhola and his different shades

Bhola and his different shades

I first saw Bhola when he was a little baby. I had come home for winter holidays and he slept  with me inside my blanket,  and the next morning I found my headphones in bits and pieces as he played with them whole night.

Baby Bhola

Baby Bhola

The only thing Bhola enjoyed eating was flour and eggs. My parents being vegetarian, he never got to eat meat, but that one time when I was home I gave him some chicken bones, and from that day he followed me everywhere I went. That one year when I was at home, he was the only one I talked to about my depression; thankfully he never gave me any advice and just looked at me with his big, thoughtful eyes. Bhola never asked my mom for food, my dad was the one responsible for that, and he never slept in my father’s room, he always liked sleeping near my mother’s pillow. Every time she hears a light sound near the window, she thinks that he has come back.2015-06-231

Bhola’s girlfriend lived across the street. The times he was with her, he would forget each one of us, and would go missing for several days. He had poor hunting skills, given the fact that he was domesticated since a young age. He once brought a live snake inside the house and freaked us all out. He was fond of killing lizards though, I guess they were the easiest prey he could feast upon.

The last time I came home in March, he had lost one of his forelimb. I pitied his helplessness and often cried seeing him like that. He got in a fight with the big cat again and injured himself…seeing him bleed, I secretly wished for him to die. I didn’t know it then, that was actually the last time I saw him. When I finally came home this time, he wasn’t there. Unlike my parents I don’t want to think that he is dead. I have read somewhere that male cats leave home when they grow old, and I sincerely hope that Bhola has somehow gone on a pilgrimage to the forests and is really happy there, enjoying all the things he couldn’t do at home. He lived a great life till the time he was here; I hope he’s honing his hunting skills now.

The Last Picture

                                                                     The Last Picture

We miss him.

Unexpected Grief

When I recently gave the link of my blog to a friend of mine he was concerned to see so many sad posts in here. He wanted to know why I always write about depressing and melancholic instances of my life and not about the things that make me happy. After days and days of introspection I have realized that I am unable to write anything when I am happy. Writing is something that comes to me only when the sad realities of life weigh me down.  I write when there is no other way to relieve my pain and today is one such day when I need to blog again.

Today is the day when the evil called Cancer has struck my family. My mom called in the evening to tell me that my aunt (my father’s sister) is in the final stages of cancer. For a while I was unable to process that information. I didn’t know how to react. Cancer was something about which I had only studied in books, read in novels or watched in movies. I never thought that it could happen to someone I knew. How ignorant we humans are! No problem bothers us till our close ones face it.  What surprised me more were the tears in my eyes…unknowingly…just like that I was crying for a person I never really liked.

The moment when my mom told me that aunt doesn’t have much time to live… it was a brief moment, mere seconds passed by but a lifetime of memories flashed in my mind. My aunt ill treated my mom in the initial years of her married life. She was rude to my mom and her family members and never missed a chance to insult them. You know she was like those sister-in-laws they show in typical Indian serials. I grew up hearing all these stories and my hatred for her inflated each moment… but her pain is bothering me today. And I am more disturbed by the fact that I can feel bad for her. I don’t know…it’s so strange. I never expected this from myself. I am unable to sleep…I see her face every time I try to close my eyes.

What is it about death that bothers us so much? Why are we so scared to face that ultimate truth? Why is it that I am grieving for someone I never actually cared about?

I am disturbed. I don’t know how to explain what I am feeling right now. There is chaos… a storm in my mind and I am unable to figure out what is bothering me more: the grief or the fact that I am grieving for someone I hated all my life.

*****

 

Death and Destruction in the Land of Gods

Being a kid, I used to be terrified watching videos of floods in the northern plains of the country, and my mom used to assure me that mountains are exempted from floods, we can have earthquakes, landslides but floods, they are out of question and I believed her till 6 days ago when all those myths were broken by a tragic catastrophe in our state. None of us, neither me nor my parents have ever seen something like this, a disaster of such a large scale when four of our districts are washed away in the water of our own holy rivers. The place which used to be a pilgrimage for millions of devotees around the world has turned into their burial ground.uttarakhand_floods_rains

Thousands have lost their lives and more than 50,000 remain stranded waiting to be rescued. The videos in television seem to be from a Hollywood movie, something we witness in those end of the world films. The local newspapers are filled with heart wrenching stories of people, a couple who saw all three of their children wash away right in front of their eyes, a family who has lost 9 of its members, a husband whose wife was washed away from 2 stairs below him, stories of loss, tragedy, damage. There is nothing left except debris and dead bodies in the land of Gods.

uttarakhand_flood2--621x414And it hurts me, to witness this tragedy, to see the level of destruction, the amount of lives lost. And more than being angry, frustrated, sad, I am scared, because I don’t know when I’ll have to encounter something like this, I fear that someday I’ll see my own hometown in ruins. Pithoragarh, where several lives have been lost, and several villages have been washed away even this time, may have to encounter something bigger like the floods in Uttarkashi, Chamoli and Rudraprayag. Because I’ve seen it grow from a small town with few houses to an over populated region, filled with hotels, multistory buildings, tourist spots and what not. I’ve seen the declining forest ranges, the burnt jungles, the encroached lands, and I fear that my own place is inviting nature’s fury, something yet to be seen. Having spent my childhood there, being a pahaadi, I can’t ignore it anymore.

Uttarakhand-Floods

Who is responsible for this? Was it nature’s way to revenge the damage man has done to it? Was it the result of excessive encroachment, illegal constructions and commercialization of pilgrimages and tourist places? Each one of us is responsible for this destruction. Every time we overuse our natural resources we must take the blame of a life lost. We have disturbed the ecosystem and so the same ecosystem is keen on destroying us. For it is taking revenge- the hotels and houses we made on the banks of rivers are taken away with it, the roads we built encroaching mountains are damaged by the same, are all washed away, we cleared forests to built dams, bridges, so, rivers have cleared all those constructions. We commercialized God, temples, we made different queues for poor and the rich, but with this tragedy, God has shown that each one of us meets the same end either rich or poor, there is no discrimination in His place, neither do we bring anything with us to this world, nor do we take away anything with us.

***

With more than 5000 people presumed to be dead this is going to be one of the worst disasters of our country. Nearly 50,000 people are still stranded and with warnings of fresh rains, the rescue operations are only going to be hindered. We all need your prayers and your help. Pray for our people, our mountains, the Land of Gods. You can also make donations to the Prime Minister’s National relief fund here. This is the least we can do.

The Bride, Who Died!

The day I first saw him,

I fell in love,

For the first time.

He was everything I ever wanted,

The man of my dreams,

We were engaged soon,

And in a month was our wedding.

We talked over phone sometimes,

As we weren’t allowed to meet,

The first time, he told me he loved me,

I could hear my own heartbeats.

Finally the day arrived,

The day I wore a red dress,

And he got down from a white horse,

Looking like a handsome prince,

He stretched his hand for me to hold,

And I did just that,

Among rituals, chants, blessings and more,

We vowed to be one till death.

With a heavy heart and tearful eyes,

I left my home for a new life…

*****

The first day at my new home,

I already knew something was wrong,

Since the very day, I was treated like trash,

I was cursed as I didn’t bring enough cash.

The prince charming lost his charm,

The very day he bruised my arm,

Hurling abuses, he said he never wanted me,

All he wanted was more money.

I was sent back home, to fulfill their greed,

But there was nothing left with my parents to give.

Everyday I was told, I was a burden not a need,

With each moment I lost my desire to live.

I thought things would change with a budding life inside me,

I was proved wrong again, I was beaten up till it bleed.

Unconscious, I laid on the floor, all I could smell was kerosene,

I had no strength left to fight, and then the fire crept in.

I could see smiling faces behind those burning flames,

I smiled back at them, felt no pain, as I was going to a better place.

And all miseries came to an end, as my soul left that burning flesh!

Death is peaceful, easy.

It was life that was hard.  

 [One woman dies in India every hour in a dowry related case. Came across one such incident in today’s newspaper, it was pathetic. Is there an end to it? I’ve no answer. ]