It is a lazy Saturday morning and I suddenly remembered a friend’s expression after he ate a packaged cake at a fast food chain and later spotted the warning label that said: May have a slight laxative effect. This got me curious about other important warning labels I may not have noticed before. This seemed like an effective way to chronicle how stupid manufacturers expect us to be and the question arises, are we sure we are doing justice to their expectations?
“DO NOT put any person in this washer” Because you know, I was just about to.
“Not to be inserted into penis”, then where else will I ever use this! (Note: they needed to illustrate as well just in case we didn’t know where on the penis to insert)
The safest place to voice your political outrage: imported clothes.
The mobile company that cares about YOUR relationships.
And then the product that goes out and asks too much of us: common sense.
Note: They have cleverly illustrated what they mean by the wrong end.
And in case this wasn’t clear enough:
Just because it is a ‘Apple’ product, please don’t get ideas.
Just when you thought you could wash the child and the clothes together.
In case you were wondering how this hanger will look inside you: check illustration.
For all those who understood that the box probably has more fiber.
A sign to warn you about the sign.
Serious Injury to?
Isn’t that the first thing you want to do with your hot cuppa, pour it on yourself.
Respect nature, think about your local cockroaches.
It is that day of the year again. He would have turned 57 years old today, had he lived. I look at his old pictures and try to imagine the places where the lines on his face would have appeared, or how his skin would record the weathering of the years. I often catch myself looking at fathers’ of friends with a guilty envy, with the hungry eyes of a vagabond child. I realize that the sudden passing of my own father has caged his fortyish year old version of him in my head and heart. I will never know what he would have grown old into which is both good and bad. Good mostly because that allows me to imagine him exactly the way I want, and bad in case the reality would have been more interesting than my own limited imagination.
There are certain rituals I do today, that have helped me (and on some occasions epically failed) to get through the day. Having said that, it is not as difficult now as it was a few years ago. The past has a way of dissolving into the background and mutely still colouring your perception of the present.
I always write about him today. Sometimes I share it, sometimes I don’t and on a few occasions, I have resignedly watched as the words have frozen cold inside me.
I talk about him to anyone who would listen to my ranting without looking at me in pity. I don’t rant for pity, I rant because it helps me still the voices inside me.
I count on my fingers, in the same way he taught me, exactly how old he would have been.
I look at the card he once made for one of my birthdays, when he could not afford to buy me a present and I run my finger over the blue faded ink of his decidedly crooked handwriting.
He had quoted Hellen Keller and I can see the odd way in which he would hold the pen between his fingers, in a way I have never seen anyone else hold a pen.
I re-read the first piece of writing I ever wrote, a poem about the soldiers at Kargil. I must have been nine or ten, and I did not exactly write it as much as I just sat by his feet on the bed as he made the sentences rhyme and I jotted it down, my spellings needing a check afterwards. It was his poem, but he had convinced me that I wrote it. He had convinced me that I was the poet, the writer of that piece. He convinced me that I can be a writer, something I still believe.
I re-read the piece I wrote about him soon after he passed away and I cringe in embarassment at my sixteen year old version and her writing. I quietly cry at the parts that had hurt to write and I remember the way my family held my stoic face and cried after they read it. I remember feeling devoid of emotion not understanding yet that mine flow better from my fingers and lesser from my eyes. Not knowing yet that grief is never complete, only abandoned, left locked up in some dark corner when we are tired of carrying it around.
When I line up the pieces I write about him, a road map emerges, milestones of writing styles adopted and given up, evolution of thoughts, an over the years compilation of my indulgences and a mosaic of the man that he once was. I suspect that I have mixed up a lot of facts over the years, that I maybe wrong about certain things but this is how I remember him and I feel he would have liked that.
One day, I caught a glimpse of something I hadn’t seen before. I was sprawled on my bed reading, and after being in that position for a good amount of time I realized, that is exactly the same way my father would read in bed. The same way he would tuck his right ankle atop his left and wrap himself up like a sushi roll in the sheets and not move a muscle for hours on end. He would read books from beginning to end, in one sitting, like I do sometimes. He would drown out all the sounds of the world when he read, retreat into a world of his own, where he was not a drunk, where the messiness of life didn’t seep in. He had found a way to succeed after all the years of being labelled a failure. He had found a way to pass through the inevitable and insufferable parts of being alive and he had passed on the secret to me. I began thinking about how many parts of me could eventually be traced back to him and I wished he was here to help me see that. I wish I could show my gratitude for his occasional comforting appearances in my dreams. I wish I could yell at him when I was angry about something else. I wish, I wish, I wish.
What would I say to him if I saw him after all these years, what do I want him to know?
He always said till the end that he never got over his own mother’s death. He carried it around even when his arms trembled under the weight. He never let go of it. So if I could tell him one thing now, it would be just this one thing, grief is difficult. And there is no way to succeed in it. But there is always a way to unload its weight off yourself, and walk on.
It has been a while since I have written and I can almost hear the creaky rust in my fingers. There are too many people who know about my blog now, people who know me and can affect me and my loved ones lives directly. Each time I think of this, the voice in my head that wants to come out gets a little more muffled. It doesn’t make any sense, I write to be read but I don’t want these people to know that I wrote it or to form an opinion about the people I write about or to start a conversation with me about this. Even my mother, read a piece I thought I had very cleverly labelled as ‘fiction’, but she is my mother and she knows the difference between fact and fiction and this piece kept her up for two nights until she finally decided to talk to me. She cried and apologised for her role in the incident or her lack of it. I did not want an apology, I had forgiven her way before that. I wrote the piece to cope with it, to make sense of it, to release it from the throes of my mind into this white blinking screen thinking that once it takes on a definite form in black and white it will lose it ghostly air and stop haunting me. This has always worked for me, making sense of the chaos of the world through words, finding patterns and also imagining them where there have been none. But this helps because it is unadulterated by what other people think of the incident, the people in the incident or even about the way I choose to express it. It works because I do this alone. Writing is my safe haven, the place I need to go to in darkness and in strength, to find and to lose and then lick my wounds, to create new parts of myself and to destroy the old.
In spite of my various attempts at order and schedule, writing has always been something that comes at its own will and like a stubborn child refuses to cooperate when its on a clock. Now I am beginning to negotiate with it but she still has the upper hand and I have a vague feeling that she always will. The urge to write will always come to me when I do not have the time, means or space to flesh it out completely or it will teasingly evade me when I sit with hours to spare and a word count goal to accomplish. It’s a wave I am still learning to ride and the last month or so has just blitzed past without anything more than a few mundane journal entries. She has roared and foamed and been as enticing as she could, but I have simply remained at the shore blatantly procrastinating, as if, as if I didn’t know that when I get around to it this particular wave will be gone. There will be more I am sure, but this one will be gone and I will never know where she could have led me.
Here is the part where I swear to myself that I will write more and post more and find Cthulhu. But sadly words don’t work for me that way, instead I am thinking of all the time that has passed since my last post and all the questions I have had since.
I am staring at the screen for a few minutes and I remember the last thing I stared at for so long, so blankly. It was a present I received a few days ago, a set of four unlinked strings that were in some complex and mysterious way to come together to form a necklace. This wasn’t a gift, it was a puzzle and who doesn’t love a good puzzle every now and then. I untangled those four strings, touching its metal and plastic beads and baffled by the lack of a logical beginning or ending or a broken link that explains everything. I ask anyone who agrees to help piece this puzzle for me, lesser and lesser because I want to wear it and more because I realise this too is now adding on to my large enough pile of unanswered questions. I watch as each person approaches it with a different strategy and I watch each of them give up or fail. In my fingers, the strings feel cool and unaffected by the confusion they are causing, they don’t seem to mind being incoherent. When I am alone I hold them up and make them dance and though I still don’t know how to wear them without risking them slipping off me or knotting them around my neck in a most unaesthetic manner at least I can hold them and dangle them and admire its strange unknowable beauty. This is not enough of course. I realise that as I try to braid it into semblance (it doesn’t work) but for now I think, for now this will do.
There are some questions that stand before us rather grotesquely, demanding that we answer them as soon as we can, questions about boundaries and trade offs and about our choices and the price one would pay to follow our urges even when they lead into the dark woods. And then there are others, the simpler ones, the ones whose answers we chase knowing that they wont affect us in any profound way but the chasing of which makes us forget, for sometime at least, the other more pressing questions.
I begrudgingly got off the Mumbai to Bangalore AC Sleeper bus that night, I was so plagued with sleep as I often am when sad or lost that had it not been for the inconvenience of having a limited bladder I would have stayed in that coffin like sleeper berth and waited for the bus to start again.. It was past ten ‘o clock and we had halted for dinner at an exaggeratedly fake Rajasthani Restaurant named Rajgadh Palace, somewhere along the National Highway still within the Maharashtra State border, while other buses and trucks whooshed past us. A tiny frail woman caught my attention. She was draped in a Saree that looked so heavy for her that she moved with a trepidation that made you feel like she will slip any minute now. I was sitting on this six-seater table on one corner, as all lone travellers do resigned to the fate that a whole table to themselves is asking for way too much. I was groggy with sleep and my mouth held that strange feeling that comes with not speaking for hours at a stretch. Seated on one of the chairs on the opposite side was a rather impatient man travelling on the same bus as me, his hair shaped funnily in the shape of his pillow, threatening the waiter every five minutes to hurry up with the food or the bus is going to leave without him. The waiter fruitlessly assured him that the bus will wait for at least another twenty minutes but in vain. The man was stubborn. When his food finally did arrive, he asked for rotis one at a time as one does when being fed at home with all the ladies of the household waiting on us. He rested his left elbow on the adjacent empty chair and reclined with an apparent sense of entitlement and an implied difficulty to please.
Midway through my own meal of piping hot and fiery sabzi so red that it stained the tips of my fingers with its redness, this tiny woman who caught my eye came and occupied a seat on the same table accompanied by her rather squarish and stout husband. He wore the traditional Marwari red flower earring in his left earlobe and the amount of jewellery she wore corroborated the recentness of their wedding. They did not exchange a single word after joining the table and the husband ordered food for the both of them. They managed to spend the ten minutes that the food took to arrive without giving each other any eye contact. I imagined a muffled loneliness emanating from her and it tousled my sulking sadness. The food came and the husband sprung forward to fill up his plate and then the wife’s who showed no movement or expression. He poured all the rice onto his plate and with barely some left as an almost afterthought he tilted it towards his wife and asked, “You won’t have any of this right?”
She nodded politely and I looked at her shrinking frame and fought the urge to ask her if she was okay. I unwillingly imagined her petite frame crouching under this man double her bodyweight, in the darkness of the night and I hoped against all evidence that at least there she has a voice.
I worried about this little woman whose name I did not know and because I couldn’t pull her aside and ask her questions about her life till I was convinced she was safe, I sighed and dodged the green pea on my plate. When her husband wasn’t looking, I gently pushed a glass of water to her side and she smiled as she lifted the glass to her lips and I swear for that moment she looked like a friend I met back in Mumbai, ranting about the unfairness of being female over a few fruity cocktails.
The shape and size of love is hard to tell.
His was an arrow
Moving straight ahead.
Hers were polka dots
Sprinkled all over.
His were a series of squares
A bit too sharp around the edges
One leading to another
Keen to reach a conclusion.
Hers were swirls and whorls
Dancing around the page
Crowding at the edges
And margins and random places
Happy to be wherever.
Her spiraling affection
Stood quietly outside
His tightly shut box.
If only it opened slightly
She could spill inside
And fill up the dark corners
And vacant edges
Tucked safely inside.
She waited and he asked
For more shapes
The sun, moon, star signs
Her birth chart
And she wondered about
The particular shape
His hair would take
On early winter mornings.
His square and her spiral
Tried to fit into each other
And in the dark of the night
And the high of the alcohol
Running in wayward lines
Through their blood
For sometime, they fit
A new shape emerged
A beautiful amalgamation
Of scars and pains
Of words and kisses
Of love, almost.
When the morning came
The sunlight drew its own shapes
On the floor where
Their clothes lay intertwined
He asked again
For her stars
She offered whatever was left
Smiling that from squares to spirals
It had come down to stars.
And that’s how one more was added
To the many hearts that broke
And the fault
Is all in our stars.