On Appa – On Failure and Ending this Charade

It will be Avani Avittam tomorrow. The usual ceremony with the associated prayers and rituals will be done. The holy three stranded thread the ‘yagnopavitham’ or ‘poonal’ will be dutifully changed. Like the past six or is it seven years now; no appa, no namaskarams, no separate vadhiyar. Like a lot of other tasks that a distraught son and a grieving and weak mother do; this too will be a task done to propitiate the various Gods that reside in some strange dimension!

I have lost count of the number of times relatives have passed sly comments at our predicament. I have lost count of the number of marriage proposals/alliances that have been shot down because in the eyes of prospective in-laws; a drunkard, irresponsible, chronic liar’s progeny can be no different and will only bring doom and despair.

At 36, I have lived long enough to see how the dynamics of social interaction in reality and social networks work. I have seen love stories turn in to tragedies, arranged marriages turning into success stories, love marriages turning into bitter divorces and variations and combinations of all possible results. This is not wallowing in self-pity, this is the realization that people treat you for granted, call you names behind your back, mock you, spread rumours, create fights, all to satiate their own egos.

I have always believed in counting one’s blessings and looking at the brighter side of life. But the way life seems to stretch forward and the relentless pressure to wear a mask, stay happy, put fun-filled and positive quotes on social networks, find purpose in life, work toward it; everything seems to be one massive lie and serves no definite purpose. My inability to find my purpose in life continues to daunt me. What purpose do adherence to scriptures and rituals serve? Like one automated robot this charade continues.

I have thought a fair deal about this before penning this down. Someone I knew personally, young, vivacious and vibrant; a social butterfly of sorts; died. She boasted over 7000 friends on Facebook over 2000 followers on Instagram and led the so-called charmed life. She died of a drug-overdose and at her funeral ceremony, only a total of seven people other than her grieving parents appeared. This came as a rude shock to me. Where did all those friends – real and social go? Why do we do, what we do? My day-job requires me to handle multiple corporate social media accounts and I can’t run away from there. But I do have a choice, all the random drivel posted here and on my personal accounts, I can control that for sure! I can stop pretending to be the intellectual literary snob, the cineaste, the music enthusiast, shutterbug and all the other carefully chosen adjectives used to describe my foolish self!

This ends here – now! I need to get a life – a real life. Hope to meet you in the real world and exchange thoughts.

This post will remain here as a testimony to all the foolish words written here till date.

Let there be light!

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A Conversation with Mr. Y. Rajan

It seemed like any other day; the usual ablutions and chores and getting ready to board the train to the city that would take me to office; like every other working day! The station was unusually crowded and I decided to wait with other people all awaiting the train. In the distance, I could see the suburban train making its way gently down the tracks and approaching the station. I was preparing myself to get into the Vendors compartment; it was spacious and offered standing space when compared to the regular compartment, which would be jam-packed in the early morning office rush hour. It was then that I heard a voice, “Mahesh, wait, your time will come!” I turned around looking to see who it was that was speaking to me in a cryptic tone. I could not spot anyone whom I knew and before I knew it the crowd on the platform rushed forward to find a place in the train. I had lost my moment and let it go as I saw people getting into the already crowded locomotive. The voice repeated – “Mahesh, good, the next train will be here in five minutes; get into the third compartment!” Now this was turning perplexing and I was wondering if someone from college had turned up and decided to play a prank on me. I then wondered how I could think that way; as everyone had left for their own safe pastures and built their own destinies forgetting the band of brothers that had remained such a powerful force in college.

I dismissed all thoughts and decided to read the newspaper till the train arrived.  The voices continued – “Mahesh.. compartment three!” The previous night I had been reading a horror tale and I guessed my mind was working over-time and I was hallucinating. The next train came as communicated and for some inexplicable reason I walked into coach three and guess what it was empty. Never in all these years of train travel had I found an empty coach in an EMU local during the office rush-hour. As I made myself comfortable at the window-seat, the train resumed its journey and before it would pull out of the platform; a man boarded the compartment. He was tall, clean-shaven and dressed in black despite the overpowering humid heat that made one sweat uncomfortably!

He walked straight up to me and smiled and said – “Hi Mahesh, glad that you made it!” It was the same voice that I had heard a few minutes ago! I was positively scared now and pinched myself to make sure that I was not dreaming. My next thought was this was some prank show shoot that was being arranged by some local television channel and I was the victim for the day! I smiled back and said – “Hi! Do I know you?” He replied – “Well you do! You have been asking yourself a question lately – I am here trying to answer it!” I tried to check if there was a small camera or microphone on his black silk shirt but could not find anything. The train stopped suddenly; I stared out the signal was glowing red; an express train crossing perhaps!

I turned back at the man trying to place a name to a face and recollect if this was someone from the past, another lifetime, perhaps! No, nothing registered in my mind and I continued to speak to the man – “What question? Sir, I don’t know who you are and how did you know my name and how could I hear your voice in my head; were you at the station?”

“Ah, Mahesh, you have too many questions; can you shut your eyes for a moment?” Now this was creeping me out! Was this some robber? All I had was my well-used phone on me, some money about two hundred odd, the trusted silver chain around my neck and a book in my bag and of-course my lunch. Now why would a robber target me for all this! Lo and behold, for some inexplicable reason my eyes closed! The voices returned; and try as much; I could not open my eyes they seemed to be stitched tightly shut!

“Mahesh, I am Rajan – I am Time, your continuous questions, pathetic writing on your blog in the guise of desperate verse, all pondering on the inevitability of death and the misery of life are just pure torture. Do you think anyone wants to read your drivel about an existential crisis? Do you think you are the only one with problems? Yes, I know it has been a hard life, a struggle, lot of failures, wrong decisions, unfair misunderstandings; I know; but for the love of God snap out of it! Your death is not going to be so soon and mark my words it won’t be an easy one. Stop writing drivel, stop all this self-pity disguised as blog posts and pathetic all-knowing philosophical hogwash on Facebook and Twitter. Stop making a bloody fool of yourself. You will die, when I will want to get you! So open your eyes now and goodbye!”

The train resumed its journey with a sudden jerk. I opened my eyes and there was no one in front of me. Mr. Rajan had vanished without a trace. I felt my trouser pocket, my phone was in place, I felt my shirt pocket, my season-ticket and money was there and a new addition, a black feather was in the pocket. Well I am no ornithologist but the feather seemed strangely alien; smooth as silk the central spine was blood-red in colour. The EMU eased into the next station and I saw a bunch of familiar faces enter the compartment. I was relieved, this wasn’t a dream or an elaborate prank. I felt a strange sensation as my mind replayed the voice of Mr. Rajan telling me – “You will die, when I will want to get you!”

The train increased its speed and as I stared out of the window I wondered, what would this whole episode mean???

Status Update

I sought pardon,

For my sins,

In lives gone by,

And this existence.

I found refuge,

In temples, mosques,

Monasteries and churches.

In mountains and caves,

In rainforests in the heart of darkness.

Rituals and ceremonies,

To appease the higher power,

Whichever name you choose to ascribe.

The tests and struggles that everyone faces!

Either makes them stronger or breaks them down.

Every single time when I hit trough bottom.

I fought, for I believed, I had a chance.

An obligation to survive, because I was accountable to my mother.

To make her world and life as happy as possible.

Today, as I observe her in a drug-induced stupor.

We fight ailments known and unknown.

I am powerless to help her,

All I can do is to take her to hospitals.

Follow medication and diets as prescribed.

Still there is no clear solution.

No proper answers, the battle,

For a good night’s sleep,

Was lost long ago!

I keep my eyes shut tight.

But the ears remain steady,

Waiting for the slightest moan or cry.

I don’t know what I have turned into.

A robot who mechanically,

Continues to go about his chores.

My employers have been patient.

Helping in anyway possible.

Friends, a handful, call or message.

Fragments of a family scattered around the world.

A few good souls still keep in touch.

What lies next? I don’t know,

The charade of positivity,

Of hope and good things,

All remain mere masks.

I hope I find answers.

I hope things change, for the better.

I have just one reason left,

To continue this struggle.

As that reason too, disintegrates,

Bit-by-bit, cell-by-cell.

The tunnel of darkness,

Seems to beckon me.

If tomorrow comes.

We shall meet again.

Hospital Memories

It may seem strange, but I do recollect the hospital where I was born after a marathon struggle that my mother and the operating doctors underwent – Portland Hospital. It is said that I was still-born and there was no response and the doctor as a last try whacked me gently on my butt and I broke into a wail, announcing my presence!

My next memory is that of my maternal uncle returning one evening from work, perspiring abnormally and clutching his chest. We proceeded to admit him to a hospital where he was treated for a massive cardiac arrest.

The next memory of a hospital is a pleasant one of seeing my aunt’s son being born!

This is followed by my nephew being born in a nursing home and my sister all smiles but tired.

After this, every single memory of a hospital has been nerve-wracking and physically and emotionally full of turmoil. From losing friends, from seeing friends having a close shave with death, of having multiple close shaves with death myself and somehow escaping the Grim Reaper; these all remain as distinct memories. The devil within the brain, does not let me forget the smallest of details, each memory is full of pain.

The past few years have seen me rushing to the hospital with unfailing regularity with my mother seeking deliverance from a variety of illnesses. From fluctuating sugar-levels, cardiac issues, a broken arm, the list never seems to end. Last year was fluid build-up in the chest and lungs and almost a cardiac arrest-type of situation

This past fortnight was terrifying as we could not pinpoint what the core issue was and the reports from the labs found nothing significantly out-of-the-ordinary. Whatever she ate, she would vomit; she would not be able to stand and fall back onto the bed and complain of extreme dizziness.

Finally with some assistance from the cab-driver, managed to put Amma into the cab and proceeded to Sundaram Medical Foundation. En-route in the cab she vomited, then in the hospital’s emergency ward, she was put on nutrients, tests were run, some food advised to be given, which she again duly vomited after one bite. Tests were run and as is the usual protocol, the nurse would come out and call ‘Sharada Attender’ – A list would be given or a bill for a test and I would keep making the payments at the relevant counters. Finally, an ENT said it is the ears that have been severely infected and there is a pressure imbalance leading to the dizziness. Slippery sensation in the feet, linked to Diabetes and would need due course of correction later. Ears cleaned, medicines given and finally dinner she ate without vomiting and said food is bland! I was here thanking God that something went in to her stomach and she says – ‘Uppu illai’ /’No salt’!!!

Then doctor said let us do a CT-Scan and cross check if there’s any other issue in the ears or the head that may be affecting her and causing dizziness. Finally at around 12:30 AM the cleaning staff cleaned the floors of the sitting area outside the ECU Ward. People began to spread sheets and lay down, I managed to lie down on the steel-chairs and found a place under a fan and went into a disturbed sleep and nightmares that keep haunting me every night; of the inevitable, painful truth!

Nurse came in by 4:30 AM, some more tests and some medicines to be bought! As dawn broke, like a gigantic robot, the hospital began buzzing with life, even as in various parts of the hospitals, life was being created, in some corner life snuffing out after a battle; the hospital awoke!

After a lot of discussion between the main doctor, a lady who was about 50 years old and who for some strange reason reminded me of Indira Gandhi and the ENT specialist, I was informed that we can leave for now and return on Tuesday for OP-review. Vertigo the reason for these problems!

We returned home and after a simple lunch and some rest, she vomited again and my helplessness continued. Medicines given, dinner given, fitful sleep, the next day dawns and vomiting again! The Gods are propitiated, rituals conducted with rice and requests to spirits of the ancients to safeguard us. In the interim, Amma’s friends from the nearby temple who are equally old and tired, call upon her and add to the moodiness and gloom and leave.

So far the lunch of samba ravai kanji has been consumed in portions.., don’t know what the evening and night holds in its wake; keep my mum in your prayers.

Till we meet again…

In Search of Light

It has been over a fortnight now.

Test after test, 

Verifying each and every symptom,

To find the reason,

For her weakening body,

The scans, the blood-tests,

They show nothing out of the ordinary.

But I see her disintegrating,

Bit-by-bit, in front of my eyes.

Prayers, rituals, offerings,

Medicines, of colours and hues,

Putting a rainbow to shame.

Everything has been tried out.

But no respite, no light,

No signs of her recovery.

Will at least tomorrow.

She wake up to good health??

I am lost for answers.

Only hope remains…

When I See You Fall

You are the reason,

For my genesis,

From your womb,

To this punishing world,

You have been the strongest,

The pillar that held me together.

We have crossed so many chasms,

Overcome so many battles.

Today, when I see you fall,

It kills a bit of my soul,

The realization that the clock,

Is ticking faster, the disintegration,

In front of my eyes, physical and mental,

The anguish that this is causing me,

The truth that none of the Gods or Goddesses,

Are going to come down to help.

Rage that is building within me,

As I am powerless to make you heal.

I stand defeated and broken.

Everytime, I have managed to turn the tide.

But this seems to be a brutal phase.

All I can do is pray and hope,

That things change,

Every time I see you fall,

A piece of my soul dies.

Hoping tomorrow brings light!

Sleep well, I shall stay awake,

I will be there by your side,

Sleep well…sleep well mother.

Loneliness and Old Age

Last year was tough,

This year is rougher,

How long will my employers,

Remain patient and stick with me?

Sick leaves and working from home,

Output not being up to the mark,

At work, I worry of Amma at home,

At home, I worry of work.

Like an endless loop,

Pain and turmoil,

Continue to envelope us.

As test after test,

Shows it scary results,

I say a prayer and work on.

Today, as she lay deep,

In drug-induced sleep,

I had a shooting pain,

Up my chest,

It started from the pit of my stomach,

Gushed up in a bile-filled rush.

I managed to rush into the toilet,

And let Nature, take its course.

There was no one to pat down my back,

Or help me with a drink of warm water.

As the pain shot up,

And I clutched my chest,

For a moment, I worried,

If I was having a cardiac arrest,

As life flashed by in a blurry haze,

I felt as if a burden had left my body.

I steadied myself and dipped my head,

Into a bucket of cold water.

This can’t end like this! Or will it?

The heartbeat came back to normal.

Came back to see mother restless in her sleep,

A frown on her lips.

Wonder what nightmare troubles her.

Just lay down and fell asleep…