Friday, October 14, 2011

Snap! Thud!

(Written for my column 'Monthly Misgivings' in Page Seven magazine)

Contrary to what some people think about me, I don’t do well at all in confusion and crisis. Actually, I am guilty of circulating this lie about myself in the hope that just saying it out loud would make it true. Turns out it doesn’t.  Some people manage to be like the proverbial eye of the storm and stay completely unperturbed by all the madness around them, or are perturbed but manage to find the inner resources that help them stay calm. Somehow, they become the reliable, rock-solid center that holds things from falling apart. Not me. I usually need a whack in the head from some sweet friend before I can calm myself down.

I remember reading a lovely analogy for a confused mind in a story about Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. He had likened a confused mind to a glass of muddy water. Nothing comes out of stirring it frantically. But if you let it sit undisturbed for a while, you can hope for the mud to settle down to the bottom leaving some clear water on top. This makes perfect sense, but why is it so hard to do?  I am all zen when everything is perfect. And when I think things are better than perfect, I smell the roses, fall in love with the sky, bask in the sun, and whip out a mushy status message for Facebook.  But the moment something goes wrong, I look like a hen roused from her dozing off while sitting on her precious eggs.

So you’d understand why some people are staring at me right now in this lovely café in San Francisco. They saw me change my mind three times about paying with cash or card; do a crazy balancing act of carrying my coffee in one hand, laptop in another, backpack slung across one shoulder, jacket over another, unable to decide where I wanted to sit, which sunny spot was sunnier than the others, and, in the process, drop my mug of coffee. The sound of porcelain shattering on the floor was what made me snap out of my fluster, s down, hold my face in my hands and close my eyes. And I heard the sweet lady who came to clean up the mess say the most comforting words I could have asked for: “It’s okay. Not the end of the world. I’ll fix you another one.”

There is a wonderful, healing work that our memory does. In helping us cope with loss, we can filter out the not-so-good times about a person, or a place, and retain only the ones that help us move on. This is also why sometimes the dead appear in a more forgiving light in stories about them.

Some, like me, could really abuse this therapeutic possibility of memory. I, for instance, use it to cope with relationships that have ended, in letting go of people who have moved on from my life. But I don’t stop with it. I push it further. In filtering out the remembrance of times that were painful, I even come to believe, by a circuitous logic, that they never happened. And I start believing that all I had was a lovely time that I have now lost by some stupidity of mine. This belief makes me hold on to the persons in my mind and not let go of them.

In such instances, a reality check is good. You can speak to someone who remembers you from those times, who can remind you what an emotional black-hole you were to hang out with, how a certain relationship was not good for you. Or there is a more fall-with-a-thud kind of a reality check – you end up revisiting the person or place for which you have built up a dangerously Eden-like nostalgia. And you get to see how far the reality is from the colourful machinations of your mind and memory. Thud!

Memory can be a good healer, but only as long as you allow it to do its work without thrusting your hidden agendas on it. Like with any healer, you should not start forming an unhealthy relationship of transference with it. If you do, memory, like any ethical healer or therapist, might tell you that your sessions would have to end.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

இப்பொழுதின் இத்-தனம்
அப்பொழுதின் அத்-தனத்தைப் போலவே
இருப்பதாகத் தோன்றிற்று. அத்தனை 
சிந்திப்பில் இப்பொழுது நழுவி 
அப்பொழுதாயிற்று. இத்தனை 
வேகமாய் விடைபெற்ற அப்பொழுதும் 
இப்பொழுது அதன் அத்-தனத்தைக் 
கைவிட்டு விலகிற்று
நினைவின் மெத்தனத்தில். 

Monday, October 10, 2011

I was just beginning to get used to death, when it chose to change its ways. Its scent, that once spread as strong as the slapping grin of a jasmined head in a sweaty bus, has ceased to be. It now has nothing to do with the disinfecting grin of hospital corridors, the scent of fear.

Death used to smell of a million things. Of coffee from a half-drunk cup, the soap that smoothed out the fall in the bathroom, the old starch of the saree that strangled, the car perfume fighting the blood-stench on the steering wheel, flesh arrested in it charring by a bucket of water thrown on it. But death is odorless for me now.

It has also taken the voices away. Many dear ones I mourn, I have forgotten how they sounded. I hear them in my own voice now, like I am reading them from a book. They have been muted out. So it is without the voices and the smells now. But hardly silent or unfamiliar. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

To Closures

Let me raise this glass of spiced tea to new closures, even though they smart on the soul like a hundred band-aids have been pulled out really fast, all at once. The scars make me a spotted creature. A strong, sinewy spotted creature. Or perhaps I am just wrapped in the skin of one. Like the god with the third eye, the one who dances both ends and new beginnings. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A song for the plain ones

There has to be a song
for the plain ones
The unaccomplished

A song for those who leave 
not even rhetoric Oh he was so much 
he did so much he was from so much
he made so much he was worth so much
he didn't deserve to go this way
not him not him
not him

There has to be a song for those
who go unnoticed like a fall leaf
among fall leaves lying
on fall leaves
He leaves she leaves they
leave we leave

But some are plucked 
picked folded
within pages of history
books Some deaths
are special They simply are
After all no one has tears
enough for all deaths not even
drama queens Too much information
bombards us too many posts
too many links updates feeds
of deaths of beatings of killings
One too many
it is hard too hard just
too hard to know which ones exactly
to cry for to fight for
to mourn to burn
one's hollow insides for

One has to choose
be sparing be eloquent
about deaths
some deaths
only some deaths Not all
Not even all
one hears of
You got to choose compare 
worth prices deals
It might be cheaper online
Do what you can
but choose See who cries
See who else cries
with who cries Thus
choose the death 
you will cry for