21 Years in Madras

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May 1, 1998, the day I landed in Madras Central Station with my mother. Bag and baggage we arrived, giving one last shot at reconciliation with my estranged father.
Just how much has changed in these 21 years?

My mother is no more. My father with whom I never had any paternal love abandoned us nearly eight years ago.

School, college, part-time jobs, full-time jobs, tenant, house-owner, loan-taker from the bank, tenant again, so many adjectives have added on to describe oneself. At a point in time, one realizes that perhaps one needs to hit the ‘reboot’ button. I have always stated that Madras made me a man even when I was a boy / teenager. After having lost the one person who mattered the most to me. A house that I bought just to keep her happy now remains locked like a museum of memories. This city now is full of memories that in hindsight only bring pain or artificial comfort.

It is time to bid goodbye and start life afresh. I don’t know where, I don’t know when, but I do know that I must. Need to sort out things on the professional front, need to streamline things on all the loans that need to be repaid.

Have to run… go far away from this city, its people, all the memories associated with this city that welcomes everyone and gives wings to their dreams. My dreams have only ended in nightmares that continue to plague my mind. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I can’t resort to stimulants that put me to sleep.

I need a new beginning – a Punarjanmam – stay tuned for more updates.

Till we meet again – vanakkam and nandri.

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Two Months After…the Pain Remains

Tomorrow will mark two months to the day when you finally breathed your last. Everything seems like a blur. Last December, a week before your birthday, one night you spoke for a long time. I was getting worried as you recounted about the serials that you watched on TV and the neighbours and the children playing in the corridor. The next morning, you gestured saying, you were no longer able to speak. I took you to the hospital, test after test and recuperation and after all the experts visited, they said there was a phonatory gap and you needed speech therapy. I brought you home on your birthday Amma, do you remember. Like raising a child, teaching you the alphabets, bit-by-bit I coaxed you to speak. By the time January ended, you seemed to be back to normal in terms of speaking. But you lost your sense of hearing completely. Still, we managed. The renal functions were growing weaker, the heart to becoming weaker. As your legs would swell up suddenly, Lasix injection would come to the rescue. We had to cut down on liquid intake to 750 ml a day. I still felt you were growing stronger and would be fine.

Then on that fateful Saturday – the first Saturday of April, you fell down. We had to summon the support staff to climb into the verandah and open the door. I wonder now, if on that fateful day I had worked from home or if I would have been on leave, would you have not fallen down. Would you be resting in the bedroom when I would make the evening tea and bring it to you? I don’t know Amma. I have lost you forever. You are now relegated to a photograph framed and placed in the front room.

Taking you to the hospital again – surgery for the hand that broke. Bringing you back home, the doctors failing to diagnose any major issues in the review, returning back home and you slipping into a deep slumber. The blood tests done with you in slumber at home. The insane spike in sodium, potassium, and creatinine values. Again taking you to the hospital with your head on my lap, I knew I had lost you. The Emergency doctor saying – either admit her to the ICU or take her back home. The decision to give one last try despite knowing the inevitable. Dialysis after dialysis followed. For one brief window of five minutes you were conscious. You said the back was hurting. the nurse said medicated pad had been placed for bed sores. Amma said “Take me home”. Those were your last words.

With the doctors being clear that the situation would remain the same and barring a miracle you would remain in this vegetative slumber, we brought you home. Do you remember Amma? Somewhere as a spirit, as a star, wherever you exist, in any other dimension or astral plane, I want you to know I tried my best, whatever I could, I tried. I still could not save you. You gave up on life, you gave up on me, you gave up on Akka, you lost your will to live this time around. We brought you home on Sunday afternoon. The home nurse was hired to start service on Monday. She arrived on Monday. We gave you food in liquid form through the nasal tube. At 3:15 in the afternoon, you breathed your last with a massive sigh. I could not cry, I have still not cried to my heart’s content. I don’t know when the dam within will burst and I will be able to cry till all the tears dry up.

The cremation was done on the same evening. The next fortnight saw all the associated rituals being done. I hope you have found peace Amma. I hope you are finally free of all the physical pains that afflicted you in this mortal world. I hope you are smiling as you do from the picture that’s framed and stares at me. Try as much as I can – the emptiness is vast, never-ending like a chasm that does not end, or like a tunnel that keeps going deeper into the bowels of the earth. I speak to you looking at the photograph. Wishing you good morning and good night. I wish you when I leave home, I wish you when I return. It is almost like you have never left. Just that I don’t hear any replies from you or I don’t get to eat anything that you have made. No, I do. The last batch of pickles that you made still remains. I am tempted to preserve them / but then again, everything comes with an expiry date – like life itself. So I have to savour the pickles before they turn bad.

People ask me – when I will get married. they say – now that you have gone, there will be no restrictions and I will find a bride soon. But what is the purpose of another relationship? Of creating a life of love and longing and then to lose them again on some day and then suffering through the cycle of loss and grief all over again. There is a sequence in the animated classic “UP” where the old man Carl remembers all the beautiful memories of Ellie – the girl whom he loved and married and eventually lost to illness. He decides to fly away to Paradise Falls with balloons linked to his house, away from all the madness of the big city.

 

Where do I run away? Wherever I reach, the pain and grief within will not end.

Office – home – office – this has been the loop. I have not managed to get the patience to go to a theatre and watch a movie. The spare time that I have – I try to read books that remain at home. Attention deficit is becoming a big problem and the mind deviates with some memory or the other popping up. Focusing at work is a challenge that I have somehow managed to keep in control as the debts that need to be repaid loom large and scare me into submission. I honestly don’t know Amma what I am going to do? You have gone, left me, all alone here. Relatives console, support, pray, and help but to what avail? The emptiness that remains in the soul, how will I ever fill up the limitless void. I don’t have any answers Amma. Sending you lots of love and light and hope you are in a safe and better place now.

Amma – The Final Journey

Amma departed her physical form in this life on May 6th. It was a long battle. The past three years being the most painful as she was hospitalized again and again with persistent cardiac and renal complaints. I am trying my best to come to terms with her absence, but try as much as I can the last ten days when she was alive – reduced to a deep slumber/vegetative state just do not leave my mind. The one brief moment when she was awake, she said “Take me home.” – Those were her last words. We brought her home in an ambulance, we made the last journey as comfortable as possible. Till 3PM I kept rubbing her feet. At 3:20 PM she breathed her last. We managed to give the holy Ganga theertham as per tradition and I cremated her the same evening.

The following morning, I received her as an earthen pot full of ashes. It was a long drive to the ocean, we went to a secluded portion of the Thiruvanmiyur Beach and the ocean took her in one massive wave. Her physical form reduced to ashes now one with the elements. The next few days – ceremony after ceremony with rituals laid down by the scriptures. Money being spent like water. Family is the lifeline that keeps us sane. Sister, brother-in-law, mama, and mami everyone was there to help and guide. It is exactly 21 days today. On May 6th at this time, I was putting a fistful of rice into my mother’s mouth as we prepared to cremate her. With her passing, the strongest anchor that kept me sane for all these years has departed.

What does the future hold?

Family-members say, I will be married within a year, that’s how the blessings of the dear departed work.

At work, I still hold a job, thanks to an extremely supportive organization and team. I am trying my best to immerse myself in work. There are moments when a memory flashes, and one tries bravely to not let the tears show. Or go to the men’s room and lock oneself up in the toilet, cry for a while, and then come out, and try to focus on the long-pending editorial calendar that needs to be completed.

I don’t know, having been a loner, practically all my life, with friends in single digits, I am not sure where this journey will take me. For the next one year, there are monthly rituals to be performed and again ‘daanam’ and ‘dakshina’ to the priests. So will I continue to be here in this house for a year? Or will I just pack all my belongings and leave one fine day to find purpose in life? My sister has warned me to be normal 🙂 She as well as my brother-in-law are scared that I will pull a ‘Jason Bourne’ and go missing 🙂

Jokes apart. I intend to introspect seriously, on what I wish to do. I really can’t run as EMIs for multiple loans taken for Amma’s treatment and the house in the village need to be repaid. Perhaps an academic program, or a new skill to learn, not really good at languages, or perhaps finally learn to play the violin.

Who am I trying to run from?
Where am I running to?
Does a new place bring peace?
The brain remains the same,
The memories that haunt me now,
Will continue to haunt me tomorrow,
Where does one find a balm,
To soothe the anguish within?
No answers, only questions,
Till I see you again,
Farewell friends.

Life has to go on…

Adventures with Amma

Taking a break from the A-to-Z Challenge.

First Saturdays are working days for me.

Last Saturday on returning from office, I found the door locked and Amma not responding to my calls. There was no light emanating from the rooms as well. After a bit of banging and the door and yelling, I heard a moan and immediately I realized that Amma had fallen down. Fearing the worst, ran down and got the ladder, requested the electrical staff to climb into the verandah, the verandah door was open. He climbed up and opened the front door. As I had feared Amma had fallen down in the kitchen and dragged herself along the floor hoping she would be able to rise.

As I lifted her up and comforted her, I could immediately spot the swelling in her left wrist and right foot. She said she did not know how she fell down but she had hurt herself. Long story short, her left wrist has fractured again – six years more or less, the left wrist has fractured again.

Took her to the hospital, the x-rays showed proof of the injury. The ortho said, we need to put her off Clopilet and get the cardiologist’s approval for a K-wire procedure. With a plaster cast, we are back home. We need to return in a week for the surgical procedure. Again and again she is being put through so much pain and misery. All the Gods and Goddesses that exist, why is she being made to undergo this strain and stress at this age?

Bathing amma, cleaning her up, feeding her takes up my time. Work also has to happen, channeling all my energy, give me strength my Lord, give me patience, for I am losing my trust in you.

 

 

 

B for Byomkesh Bakshi

Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay is one of Bengal’s most famous writers, He was a multi-faceted genius and also spent time in Bombay writing scripts for movies. Though he wrote several books on different topics, his most popular creation continues to be Satyanveshi – Byomkesh Bakshi.

Fans of Doordarshan would remember the television serial that made more people aware of the genius of the creator and his detective. The books were originally written in Bangla and some English translations of the most popular short stories are available. Movies have also been made featuring Byomkesh Bakshi and especially the last decade has seen several movies being released in Bangla. Even the great Satyajit Ray could not resist the charm and made “Chiriyakhana” (Zoo/Menagerie) starring Mahanayak Uttam Kumar. Though the movie is considered by critics as Ray’s weakest, it was quite successful at the box office and continues to have a cult following among mystery-lovers.

The TV series that aired on Doordarshan had Rajit Kapoor play Byomkesh and KK Raina play Ajit his friend and chronicler of the mysteries. Among the many short stories that made it to the mini-screen the one that interested me a lot is a story that involves the ‘Rokthomukhi Neela’ / “the Deadly Diamond” – a precious blue gem that causes only problems to anyone who covets it.

The episodes are available on YouTube. Older movies have also found a presence and the newer ones can be viewed on streaming services.

To view the TV series that aired on Doordarshan in Hindi

 

A for Agatha Raisin

So here we are with the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Starting with a character and a series of books that I discovered just this year. We had a book sale that allowed us to choose a box and stuff it with pre-loved books for a specific amount. This particular book was part of that collection – “Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death” by M.C. Beaton. I picked the book up on a hunch and my intuition did not go wrong. This is the first book in a series of humourous mysteries set in a charming old English village. The key protagonist of the series is Agatha Raisin whom we believe is in her late forties or perhaps early fifties and has retired by selling her successful PR firm to a larger agency. She was once married, but left the good for nothing husband for her own sanity.

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In this book that initiates the series, Agatha tries to fit into the village of Carsely. She buys a quaint little cottage and tries to merge into the social structure of the village. There’s a baking competition and she decides to buy a quiche and enter it into the competition. What follows is utter chaos? A person who eats the quiche dies and Agatha finds herself as suspect number one in the crime investigation. Who killed the person who dies after eating the quiche? The villagers are not as innocent as they seem. Agatha carries out her own investigations to prove herself innocent.

Do read the novel to find out the identity of the murderer. The book is a mix of Agatha Christie and P.G. Wodehouse’s writing style and draws laughs at regular intervals alongside building the suspense.

There is also a television series based on this series.

 

A to Z Challenge Theme Reveal

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Going to keep it very simple.

Investigators in fiction and cinema that I have loved.

So expect some known and unknown names spanning different languages and eras.

Not sure if will cover the usual suspects like Holmes and Poirot as already pages upon pages have been written about them.

Wish me luck and hope you are participating this year as well.