Bathing Amma

Her skin is brown,
Scars and marks,
The surgeon’s stitches,
Leaving a gentle trace,
Memories of a Caesarean delivery,
That allow me to type,
And share this today.

The water is hot, scalding hot.
I start by pouring a bit,
On her feet, she says – “It’s hot”.
I mix tap-water and then ask her,
To touch and feel the water,
She says it is just right!
We start slowly.

She sits patiently on the stool,
Like a priest in a temple,
Who bathes the stone idol,
Of the merciful and all powerful Goddess,
I pour the water slowly,
The fragrance of Hamam soap,
Permeates each pore.

Memories of a childhood,
Of happier times,
Of a life, when worries,
Had not begun to erode,
This body and mind,
Of oil that would be applied to the head,
And we would be given the customary Saturday bath.

How time changes everything?
I see her crumbling,
Bit by bit in body and soul.
But we have to remain strong.
She has fought enough battles all her life,
This is a battle that the two of us,
Are fighting together.

I am sure she shall come out victorious.

Advertisements

Thoughts on a Death

We moved to a new apartment within city-limits away from the village that has been home for a long time. The shift was because of Amma’s frequent hospitalizations. The new apartment cuts down travel time and in an emergency I can reach the hospital in under 30 minutes.

Yesterday evening my sister who has been with us for over a month now said that there has been a death in the opposite flat. It was an elderly gentleman about 70 years of age. I had seen him in the morning as well when leaving to office and smiled at him. A man of few words he always sat in the front room looking at all the happenings in the corridor. As soon as I reached home I went to their flat. He had been laid to rest in the ice box and the ceremonial lamp had been lit. The elderly ladies in the family said – “He was fine, eating snacks in the evening watching TV, he went to the bathroom, collapsed and died instantaneously.” Deaths are a strange thing to handle, one does not know what to say and console the bereaved. One offers prayers and support and says – “Please let me know if I can be of any help.”

They are still waiting for his extended family to arrive. They are spread across the state, anytime during the evening the body will go on its final journey.

As I move in from hospital to home and hospital with my mother, I am scared. I know I have to let go. But this incident once again shows how weak I am and am thoroughly unprepared to handle the inevitable. We follow the doctor’s advice, medicines that seem to make her weaker and weaker are being pumped in – the renal functions being weak do not let us do the angiogram. The risk of dialysis is forcing the cardiologist to keep delaying the procedure. We don’t know what the future holds. Every day starts with a prayer, every night ends with another. My sister leaves tomorrow. How long we will continue to remain like this? When will the next hospitalization ensue? Will Amma get healed? This continuous cycle of endless medication, rushing to the hospital in the cab. Repetition of all the tests and the inconclusive reports, nephrologist and cardiologist at loggerheads about the angiogram.

The tunnel never seems to end…..

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!

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…

As the River Flows By…

Well Mahesh, what is it that you want to do?

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Are you happy with what you are doing?

Some questions that I keep getting asked every once in a while. I have been in the industry for 12 years now. An IT-job or ITES-job to be precise. I was part of a batch of campus recruits, way back in 2005. We were a bunch of 18 pushed into the fascinating world of Instructional Design. Every single one of them has gone on to build a powerful and focused CV with some brilliant achievements. One of the batch mates is at the Associate VP-level now Training & Development. Others are at a similar rung high up in the corporate hierarchy. Their salaries have breached the INR 10 lakhs an annum bracket a long time back. I am nowhere close to the fancy numbers that parents of prospective brides mention on matrimonial profiles!

Here I am sitting, typing out this blog at the end of a day’s work wondering what am I doing with my life? In 27 days from now, I will turn 35. I still don’t know what my purpose or goal in life is! At a superficial level, one is to ensure that the home loan gets paid without any issue. Roughly 15 years to go at the current rate! I know I can’t help change destiny in terms of the health of family-members, time will take its own course of action.

This little space on the Internet has become a place to vent out my anger, frustration, growing disillusionment with the things that I see, the people whom I meet, what I hear, what I experience. There are so many uses of “I” in the previous sentence. When does one let go of the “I”?

What is it that I intend to do with this gift of life that I have wrested with the Grim Reaper a fair number of times? I am sure there is some purpose or reason why I managed to survive despite being given up for the dead multiple times. But what is that reason? What is the purpose of this existence?

These roles that are thrust upon by birth, the name, caste, colour, creed all arriving due to genetics and birth at a particular place and time; what purpose do they serve?? No answers, only questions! In the process of self-enquiry, I have only found myself being ridiculed and branded a half-baked nutcase. Stack after stack of books are read, ideas assimilated, but the search for the one truth, the one spiritual master who can offer the gift of enlightenment continues… One wonders is it possible to find salvation and redemption without a Guru?

The answer is definitely not 42 this time around!

Look inwards….till you find the beam of light and hold onto it!

 

The Half-Truth

Before entering the circular death trap
Who was I? What was I?
I would not remember
Once I enter

After entering the circular death trap
I would not even realise
How excruciatingly close were we
Myself & the enemy
Maybe I will even be able to make myself free
From the circular death trap
But the nature of the trap
Will never change……
Shall I die? Or shall I kill?
Shall I be the victim or the assassin?
This can never be settled.

The light in which decisions are made
Does it render all things equal?
Impotence is weighed against manhood
And the pointer of the balance
Fixed on a half-truth.

— Dilip Chitre

Now view the rendition of an underrated star, who was scorned and mocked at in recent years, but is now praised after he has left us – Om Puri, reciting the poem in Ardh Satya.

The movie and this poem are quite close to my heart. There was a phase in my life, when I felt I wanted to be a police-officer and get justice for those who suffered. As one grew older, one realized that the system is far too complex and corrupt. What one needed and still needs is a vigilante or a group of vigilantes.

There is anger, frustration, the castrated feeling of helplessness that has pervaded deep within the soul and all that remains is a broken, deeply flawed individual. There are moments of darkness, panic and pain. Sleep is just an adjective that offers a drug-induced comfort for a few hours. Nightmares recur, the inevitability of life, the truth, be it half or full keeps me awake….

Happy New Year — 2017