Monday, May 31, 2010

Living in the present

Our life is made up of moments. Happy, sad, crazy, fun, angry,unexpected,predictable - moments. Yet often we choose to ignore the 'now' thinking we will always have the chance to come back to it later if we want. We prioritize our lives, consciously or subconsciously. We go by what is 'right' as per the expectations of others or demands of daily life and curb our impulses. Some of us live to regret it, while the lucky ones can adapt and live with not having done what they would have ideally loved to do. I live with my personal demons too:

My grandma was my anchor and in some ways, I was hers. I stayed in Delhi and she was in Kolkata. Our lives were entwined and connected through the mobile phone throughout the year except for my occasional visits to the city when I could be with her for a few days. She began to lose her power of hearing and her memory with age. Gradually our phone conversations sounded like this....

Dida (grandma): Kemon achish? (How are you?)

Me: Bhalo. Tumi kemon acho? (I am good. How are you?)

Dida: Kemon achishhhh? (How areeee you?)

Me: Bhalo achiiiiiiii. (I am goooood)

Dida: Shorir bhalo nei? (Are you not keeping well?) - As she could not properly hear my response, she got worried easily and assumed I might not be well. It would take few more minutes of convincing till she moved to the next question.

Dida: Kobey ashbi? (When will you come?)

Me: December e

Dida: Ashbi na? (You will not come?)

Me: Ashbo Didaaa....December mashey (I will come in December)

Dida: Kotodin dekhini...aye na ekbar (It's been so long since I have seen you, please come once)

Me: Ashbo toh sheeth kaaley (I will come in the winters)

Dida: Ekhon sheeth kothaye? (It's not cold now) - She might have just grasped one word in the conversation and made her assumptions.

Dida:Phone korish na keno amakey? (Why don't you call me?)

Me: Kalkei kotha holo toh Dida (We just spoke yesterday) - Due to her failing memory she would forget having spoken to me just a day or two earlier and would be sad about lack of communication from my side.

Dida: Phone korish na keno? Kobey ashbi? - And the entire conversation would start all over again.

My voice would rise with every sentence in an effort to make her hear better and at times my patience dipped. Also, since such conversations would usually take anything between 15 minutes to half an hour - I gradually started spacing my calls from everyday to once in 2-3 days. I would also ensure that I call her when I was in a relaxed mood and had plenty of time in hand. On days that were stressful or hectic - the calls were 'postponed'. At times these calls became source of amusement to the listeners around us and at times their patience was also tested. My scheduled visit to Kolkata also kept getting 'postponed' due to other factors which gained priority. It is not as if I did not want to meet her and spend some quality time with her - but it was just that other 'important' things kept coming in the way.

Finally I visited Kolkata. Met up with her almost everyday of my stay but could not manage to stay with her even for a few days since I was in the city for only two weeks and there was so much to do and so many people to meet. I returned to Delhi - happy that I had finally met her and spend some quality time with her. As soon as I was back the phone calls resumed:

Dida: Kobey ashbi? (When will you come?)

Me:Ashbo (I will come)

In that year, her health, memory and hearing deteriorated at an alarming rate. Soon she could not remember or recognise family members and had almost lost her sense of hearing. The phone calls ceased to matter to her. She was now living in the past where she did not need a phone to connect me to her - I was already firmly rooted in her past so she had me with her in her mind. I still called but she usually did not hear nor remember a word. I was relieved of my duty to make regular calls. I kept taking 'updates' about her from my mashi (aunty) who had been her primary caregiver. I desperately made plans to visit Kolkata once again to see her soon. This was last year. In december 2009 - my dida died. I relocated to Kolkata in February 2010. I was two months too late.

I have no clue why I am sharing this very personal experience in a very public forum except maybe because writing is the strongest form of catharsis for me and also perhaps to make an appeal:

If there is a friend whom you have not spoken to in a while and have been meaning to call - pick up the phone. Do it now.

If you have been meaning to take up a hobby but just have not found the time yet - Do it now.

If you have been meaning to say something to someone but the time just did not feel right - Do it now.

If you feel like chasing your dreams and turning your passion into profession but are not sure if it would be the right thing to do - atleast give it a try. Do it now.

Living life without regrets is the only way to live it. Maybe the behaviour or action will be considered impulsive or even wrong by everyone else but if it brings you happiness without hurting anybody - do it now. Following your heart every moment of your life is perhaps the biggest gift you can give to yourself. Maybe the logical thinkers will want to crucify me for even suggesting such a thing - they are entitled to their views - just like I am entitled to mine.

*As I see the rain pouring down and feel the cool breeze soothing my parched soul, I feel this strong urge to step out and take a walk in the rain. Everybody else around me is huddling under shelters - protecting themselves against this downpour. My mind shouts - you know you have a perpetual throat problem and getting drenched is not a good idea - I repeat 'Not' a good idea. My heart smiles and softly whispers - go ahead - Do it now. I ended up in bed - sore throat, severe cough, runny nose, constant headache, throat infection induced fever. Was the momentary insanity worth all this? U bet!!!! :-)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Felt a strong urge to write something. So here it is:


Monday, May 3, 2010


She died that night. When she was just 8 years old. Now, 20 years later, her killer was at her mercy. A hopeless invalid, he was dependent on her for his very existence.

As she spoonfed him every morsel or wiped his mouth after every bite, she was careful to avoid any physical contact as far as possible. She specially avoided his eyes and his hands. The eyes which used to seek her out from every hiding place. The hands which then pulled her on his lap and then onto his bed to do unspeakable things. Oh yes, the hands which strangled her innocence to death on the night she turned eight.

She wondered what was wrong with her. Why was she helping this man live, when she had prayed for his death every single day in the last two decades? He had destroyed every emotion in her - love, trust, respect and left her only with hatred. She felt hatred with an intensity that was overwhelming and destroyed everything in its path. Over the years this hatred had become her only reason for survival. She had planned vengeance and was ready to extract her pound of flesh as soon as fate bestowed her a fair chance. Now she had that chance. Then why couldnt she bring herself to destroy her tormentor and satisfy her hatred once and for all? She then realised that perhaps he had won again. Just seeing him lie totally helpless on that bed had snatched even the hatred from her. He now left her with nothing.

As she turned to put away the glass of water from which he had just sipped a few drops, she heard a hoarse whisper. Startled she turned around. It was the first time he had spoken to her since she had returned to look after him. She strained to hear the words coming out of his twisted, saliva dripping mouth. She bent closer and closer.....and then she heard them...the words she had waited to hear for all these years. He was finally saying, 'I am sorry'

It all came back with a rush. Every emotion, long dead, surged through her heart. Pain, rage, grief, hatred and even a fleeting sensation of deep love which she had once felt for this man, filled her being. A deep sense of calm descended on her as she slowly came back to life. She brought her mouth close to his ear and uttered the words which finally destroyed him. She softly whispered, "I forgive you, Dad"

Sunday, May 2, 2010


She lay there on the cot....happily gurgling. A tiny bundle. Arms stretched out towards the sky as if wanting to pull the entire world in her warm embrace. It was only a few days since she had set her eyes upon her surroundings and was already in love with life.

Her two elder siblings lay on the naked floor, holding on desperately to the last remnants of sleep, before the day's struggle for livelihood began. Baba was already at work. He could not afford the leisure of staying in bed after sunrise, considering the number of mouths he had to feed. She was the latest addition.

In the background, she could hear the comforting sound of her mother's voice talking to her Dadi. But wait...Ma didnt sound her usual self. This was not the voice Ma used when she was singing her a lullaby or crooning while she suckled at her breast. This was different. Ma sounded really upset. She could feel the tears in her mother's voice and that turned her little world upside down. Not knowing how to comfort her mother, she began to wail loudly. If only Ma would come running and pick her up in her arms, her world would be secure once again.

She could hear her Dadi's voice raised in agitation. She did not like her Dadi at all. Nor her father for that matter. Her elder sisters were nice and played with her at times, but only when they came home at night. It was only Ma she loved with all her heart and could trust with her life. It was only her Ma who made her world a happy place. Every little wail or toothless gurgle was understood and her every little wish fulfilled - Ma fed her when hungry, patted her to sleep when cranky and even understood when she simply wanted to be held in her arms for that warm, fuzzy feeling of love and protection. So then why didnt she come running to her today when she wanted to comfort her Ma in her own way?

Ma was now sobbing while Dadi was trying to explain something to her. Oh how she wished she understood adult conversation! And where were her sisters going? Her sisters never left home before she had been given her second feed after waking up. It was still too early for them to leave the house wasnt it?

Finally, Ma came to her. She felt a wetness on her cheeks as Ma bent over her to comfort her. The wetness trickled into her tiny mouth. Salty...just like her own tears. She babbled desperately, "Don't worry Ma, it is alright. I am here. Just hug me tight and you will be fine." Her mother only cried harder.

She looked at her mother, her eyes filled with love and trust and reached out with both hands. But she didnt quite understand the look in her mother's eyes. Why were they saying 'sorry'? She was so engrossed in trying to decipher the look in Ma's eyes that she failed to see the pillow descending on her face, cutting off her air supply.

She thrashed her arms and feet in the air, mustering all the strength her little body would allow. It was a painfully short struggle. She was no match against the strong arms that held down the pillow. Life was snuffed out of her within moments......moments that would stretch into eternity for Ma.

"Now stop moping woman! We had to do this. How do you think my son would manage to feed another hungry mouth. Two girls already and you had to give birth to a third! Oh Lord, when will I get to see the face of a grandson who can support the family instead of being a burden? Now will you snap out of your zombie mode and help me bury this thing. It will start stinking soon enough. And why, may I ask, you had to look into her eyes even knowing yourself to be an emotional fool? In fact, why did you even have to be there, I could have handled it alone."

"To uphold that trust Ma," she finally spoke. "I wanted my daughter to die with trust in her eyes and not fear. And I am willing to be haunted by that look for the rest of my life....only for that momentary trust I saw in her eyes."