Patterns of the Night

It usually starts,
At about 2 AM,
A moan issues,
I dread it,
For I know,
She is not well,
I get up,
Switch on the light,
She is in a drowsy state,
In a weird state,
Between sedated sleep,
And a feverish pitch,
That asks her to get up.

I have to hold her steady,
As she gets up,
Usually she will complain,
Utter some lines –
“Why am I still alive?”
Then she will cough,
The phlegm flows,
At times, the fever,
Will cause her to vomit.
I wipe the mess clean,
Put a new maxie on her.

Then offer her a hot decoction,
Of herbs that come in handy,
It will have a bit of medicine,
That puts her to sleep,
A deep sleep,
And I will stay awake,
Sitting staring into the abyss,
Wondering on the unbearable,
Lightness of the futility,
Of this existence,
This facade called life.

At some point beyond 6 AM,
She will awaken,
The pain would have gone,
But the fever would remain,
Over the course of the day,
She will continue to be monitored,
The day will turn to noon,
The noon to evening,
And the noon to night,
And then in the night,
The pattern will repeat again!
The cycle of pain,
Suffering, discomfort and medication,
Will continue all over again.

No light, no darkness,
No sunshine or moonrise,
No joy, no sorrow,
No blessing, no curse,
Like one pointless,
Bagpiper blowing his bagpipe,
In the darkness of the mist-filled night,
I go on, till how long??
The patterns of the night….
The patterns of the night,
They are never ever right,
When will I ever end this fight?
The patterns of the night!

— Mahesh

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Thoughts on Mother’s Day

My timeline on Facebook is flooded with sentimental posts, pictures and quotes all celebrating motherhood. How does one define one’s relationship with one’s biological mother, or the mother who adopts us, or teachers who become mothers and guide us? It is very difficult to define this bond.

When a lady bears you in her womb, goes through hell to deliver you bearing a whole lot of pain; a part of her dies to bring you into this world. That umbilical cord that binds you to your mother is a special bond! In times gone by when adventures on the high seas and travelling by ship was the only way to discover new lands, umbilical cords were coveted among sailors as a lucky charm to keep them safe. Sailors believed that the cord would keep them safe, the cord was fashioned into a charm or amulet and worn by sailors!

There are some close people whom I know who share an angry relationship with their respective mothers, it is out of distrust and misunderstandings that snowballed into a rift boosted by the egos of the parties involved! I have had the task of setting alight the funeral pyres of distant cousins and family friends as the son/daughter in question was stuck abroad and could not make it to India in time for the last rites. I have had people breaking down to me over Skype and on the phone; cursing the very moment they chose to go abroad! I had a friend who said, “Mahesh amma oda pavizha-kallu padicha mookuthi irukkum da, adha mattum yaenakki anuppi vei da! I want it to keep reminding me that I let her down!” Incidents like these are many! There was the best friend of a time gone by who completely ended up a “penn-koandhan” toeing every line his wife said and ditched his mother in an old-age home; she died broken-hearted! The idiot just came and completed the last rites; when he lit her pyre that’s when he broke down completely! “Matchaan, thappu panitaen da, paeriya thappu panitaen, Meena pinnadi sithi ipidi vitutatenae yaen Amma va! Paava manippaey illai da yaenakku!”

It becomes a worry for me if my mother fails to answer the phone! Morning once I reach office, I call and confirm she is fine, evening once I step out of office I call her again. There have been times when she would be in a drug-induced sleep and would not answer the call, I would worry a hundred different things and keep calling every ten minutes till she would reply.

I have let go of many opportunities for her. There have been numerous wedding proposals that have come through! Without batting an eye-lid the girl’s parents would ask – “Amma va vittu thanni kuduthanam varanam thambi!” I would say – “Nadakaratha sollungo, ponnu ku vaera maapalai a paarungo saar!” Friendships that could have blossomed into something more concrete and and an actual love story; got cut short! Opportunities to go abroad have been sacrificed!

When an entire clan stood against us, asking us to give one more chance at redemption (after umpteen earlier chances), I firmly put my foot down and was in a way black-listed by a whole group of “well-meaning relatives”. We battle, every day, within and without, illnesses, medicines, food, cooking, choice of fruits to be offered to the Lord for prayers!

We battle every day with each other and others.. life goes on!

One wonders if it was all worth it??

All I want to tell you readers out there is – “Some battles are worth it and some battles are not worth it!” Don’t end up doing something that you will regret all your life. One day you will have to set your closest ones free! So cherish this moment with them!

Tomorrow may not come….

 

F for Father, Where art thou?

As many of my readers know, I share a deep, unexplained feeling of hatred for my father. I have written enough on how he ruined our lives (my mother’s, my sister’s and mine). I am not going to write again about all those troubled years. This post is a reflection on what drove him to what he turned into.

A young boy in a distant village in Kerala, the first child in a family of five siblings, finishes his Class X and lands in a slightly larger village and joins a restaurant as a server. He sends money the money that he earns to his parents and then he sees an advert in the newspaper and goes to a naval recruitment fair. He clears all exams and starts his journey. Even today, when at times, I am messed up in my head and yearn for that bit of paternal affection, I take out an album, it has my father in his naval uniform with his medals. How smart and dashing he looked, I am sure many a maiden’s heart would have fluttered. He had the looks of a dashing Errol Flynn. By a weird twist of fate, his scheming parents marry him away to a young girl who studied just till Class VIII. A marriage which the  old man (my paternal granddad) thought would help his other children. Life all those eons ago would have been strange, a young couple, a cramped house, scheming in-laws, jealousy, anger, madness! It was a match made in hell.

With many years of service in the Navy and a fair bit that’s classified, somewhere my father lost it and took to the bottle. It was a life-long struggle that eventually ruined him to not even a shadow of his strengths. My father would work in many leading firms across India and even in the Middle East. A fair bit of his life in Mumbai and in Sharjah is shrouded in mystery. He would never tell us anything. Gifts, once in a while, some money wired through, a greeting card with a message would land up. When we made one final attempt at reconciliation, we knew it was doomed, but we still tried. It did not work!

I have gone on and on about him failing in his duties, as one grows up, I wonder, have I failed him too? Deep reflections within are not going to give me answers. I have forgiven him a bit for all that he has done to us. It is my destiny to remain like this and his to remain the way he is! At some point this circle will end and then I can set him free once and for all. Till then, there is no peace for any of us! That inkling of dread, that bit of fear, that phone call confirming my worst fears may come in any time. Then I would have to claim him and cremate him. The same holds true for my mother as well. With the dreaded curse, which I have of visions into the future that I can’t control, I know both their times are nearing and I have to mentally prepare myself for setting them free.

Perhaps, at least in another dimension of time; let them stay happy!

Heart of Darkness

She sent me a message on Facebook,
Nothing complex, nothing extraordinary,
Just a photo of her wedding invitation.
She had just typed, “please come”.
I loked back at all those memories.
It was a foolish infatuation,
A Lolitaesque craze for a child??
Or was it something deeper?
At the end of the day!
What mattered was religion!
Nativity, language, caste, community!
It is a bitter truth!
I have had to swallow it.
I wish you all the very best.

No drama, no beards, no drinking binges,
Life just goes on,
From one pay-check to another.
Somewhere a part of me died.
When she called me Bhaiyya!
Does life have to be like this!
Can an adult man and woman,
Only be lovers, husband and wife,
Or brother and sister!
Does friendship have no value?
What makes people think!
That after everything!
Calling one as brother or sister!
Solves every problem in between?

Thoughts on a Typical Tam-Brahm Wedding

Mamas and mamis all smiles,

Dressed in silk sarees and veshtis,
The strangely familiar faces,
The familiarly strange faces,
The vadhiyars (priests) sitting in a huddle.

The catering contractor praying,
To all the 1000 gods in the heavens,
That this wedding too,
Should be a grand success.
The thathas and pattis (grandparents)
Struggling to sit steadily.

Some in wheelchairs looking,
Pale shadows of their former selves,
Some still sharp and sprightly,
Cracking jokes with the young ones,
Talking of kutcheris(concerts) in Cleveland.
Then arrives the magic moment.

The groom and his entourage,
Make a grand entrance,
The bride’s family,
Welcome the groom and party,
With flowers and rose-water.
Smiles all around,
And photographers get busy!

Then starts the room allotment,
Groom’s family rooms,
On the first floor,
Bride’s family on ground floor.
How many rooms have ACs?
Is there a lift?
Is the bathroom easily accessible for the elderly?

Amidst all this confusion,
The hall attendants will arrive-
‘Mama coffee aa tea aa’,
‘With sugar aa wihtout sugar aa’
By default someone will spill coffee or tea,
On the pristine white veshtis(dhotis)
Some comic banter will occur.

By then groom and family,
Will sit in front of,
The ceremonial fire,
At a distance the bride,
Will be seated with her family,
Hymns will be chanted,
The smell of incense,
Jasmine and rose flowers,
Will mix in the air.

In the kitchen annex,
Cooking will be in full swing,
Suddenly contractor will announce,
‘Tiffin ready’
As bride and groom lost in hymns,
Sit through fasting,
others will devour,
Idlies, dosas and pongal,
With kesari, gulab jamuns or halwa.
Woe betide if the vadai is dry,
Or if it is not served.
God save the contractor!

Ritual after ritual,
Costume changes after each ritual,
Managing the crowds,
In between a child will come crying,
Amma kaanam or make a scene,
Asking for ice cream at 10 AM in the morning,
As the child’s parents look sheepishly,
When all efforts fail,
One gentle smack will make the child see reason.
A Dairy Milk Bar works wonders too!

Time for lunch,
More discussion on food,
Some nasty comments,
On members of folks from both sides,
The curious guest who no one recognises,
From either family.
He happily eats and leaves!

More rituals – all done!
Then the wedding reception.
The mandatory North Indian menu,
A counter with chat, pop corn and cotton candy.
Paneer, naans, grilled vegetables,
Two ice creams, four sweets,
The meetha paan and the fruit salad.
The obligatory sight-adichufying (gentle flirting)

The Amreeka project return chamathu paiyyan,
Who would be the cynosure of all eyes,
Of all mamis and mamas,
With eligible daughters for marriage.
The poor harried software engineers,
Stuck in India waiting for ‘on-site opportunities’.
No connection to all this mess,
I am not an engineer, lawyers, doctor, auditor – gumbal.
The rare minority like me,
Who look at the unfolding drama.

In this confusion, we will be searching,
For that one lady,
Someone whose eyes can ignite a spark,
Someone with whom we can discuss,
Thalaivar and Tolstoy with equal ease,
Nolan and Mani Ratnam or Spielberg and K. Balachander,
With heightened interest.
May be we may find someone 🙂
Otherwise we just keep trying!

The wedding day – The big day,
Another set of complex rituals,
Kashi-yatra scene – as the groom,
Prepares to run to Kashi,
He is brought back to the hall,
By the bride’s father,
With the promise of his daughter’s hand,
In holy matrimony!

All culminating in that moment,
When the groom ties the sacred ‘thaali’
Around his bride’s neck.
In that moment they are pronounced man and wife.
Lots of namaskarams and blessings later.
Smiling for the camera,
Accepting gifts – mostly money and glassware and clocks.
They finally proceed to have lunch.

Registration formalities
At the local government office.
A quick visit to the groom,
And the bride’s house,
At an auspicious moment.
Another visit to the wedding hall,
To complete the ‘nalangu’ (fun games)
Rolling coconuts like cricket balls,
Breaking appalams on each others heads.
A bit of singing, a bit of gentle chatter.

Finally the long wait comes to an end,
The guests leave,
The payments are all settled,
Gifts all packed in bags,
Relatives who came from other cities,
Bid good bye and leave,
With thamboola pais and return gifts.
A final check to see nothing has been,
Forgotten in the hall – everyone leaves!

One marriage ends and serves,
As the foundation or meeting place,
For prospective brides and grooms,
All set for another marriage,
To be held in the same hall,
Or another hall with a similar set,
Of guests, rituals and all the usual suspects!

That my dear friends is how – ‘enga aathu kalayanam happens’!

Meshu Meets the Astrologer

So Meshu calls up the astrologer and fixes an appointment with the wise man. He says visit me on Sunday around 10:00 AM. In the interim Meshu as always being the over enthusiastic bloke that he is goes ahead and posts cryptic statuses on Facebook, which has friends calling him up and conveying best wishes.

The week goes unbearably slow and in this interim for some inexplicable reason, the devil in Meshu’s brain keeps telling him this won’t work, this won’t work. Meshu asks the devil to remain silent and goes about his daily tasks. On Sunday he reaches the astrologer’s residence to see a long queue of people. He waits patiently as the visitors in search of answers leave slowly. Meshu’s turn comes and the astrologer smiles at him; recollecting him from his previous visit.

After the customary namaskarams, Meshu presents the girl’s horoscope along with his own. The astrologer analyses the two, makes calculations, recites hymns and uses the cowrie shells to draw patterns on the wooden board with intricate symbols. Clearly this is not going to be nice; Meshu’s worst fears are confirmed. He says – ‘Son, let us wait, these horoscopes don’t match.’ In one moment a week’s worth of romantic castles built within the confines of Meshu’s heart come crashing down!

Meshu thanks the astrologer and returns; more calls to be made, more horoscopes to be matched!

Meshu’s search continues!

A Bride for Meshu

Meshu went and registered his matrimony profile at Sringeri Madham after his mother threatened to throw out all his DVDs and books if he did not comply with her instructions. The reason why the threat was delayed is because of some inter-planetary transit of planets and stars that did not augur well for marriage for the last two years.

So Meshu registers the profile and secures the list of profiles of girls/women/ladies registered in the past two months at a nominal price of Rs 10 and proceeds home. His mother ensures that Meshu lists every name, star, gothra and poorvigham/nativity. Then Meshu filters out profiles by relevance with respect to date of birth. He does not believe in sub-sects and stars and all that jazz; but the astrologers need to earn their bread and other pesky relatives should not be given a chance to complain. Alas he finds that more than half the girls listed are of the same gothram and nakshatram so by default they are rejected. Another big percentage of girls are from a non-compliant star.

As the list keeps decreasing in size Meshu wonders if at least one compatible profile will be there.

Finally after a three-hour analysis; applying some of the best concepts learnt in MBA class and the law of averages and bell-curves and excel-filters. Meshu looks at the spreadsheet that he has created. Five names – aha! Five phone-numbers.

He proceeds to call each guardian/parent. In a matter of 30 minutes calls have been made to Pune, Indore, Salem, Bengaluru and Kolkatta. SS-Matri profile numbers have been provided by two guardians. Another parent strongly says; ‘you see thambi I expect at least Rs 80000 as your monthly salary’. Another guardian says send me an e-mail with all details. The last person says ‘naanga konjam busy – call later’.

So Meshu as the dutiful son as he is visits the SS-Matri website and keys in the ID-numbers given. He is shell-shocked at the consistent demand of a minimum monthly pay-package of Rs 75000; his hopes are dashed. Finally he sends an email to the guardian who asked him to send the email. One more email sent to another parent whose daughter had made reasonable demands on her SS-Matri profile.

Three days pass – Meshu is worried – not a single response yet.

This morning – on Amavasai day he receives an email with a horoscope and a picture and Meshu is in seventh heaven!!!!

Let us see what the stars have in store for Meshu. Will Meshu find a bride? Keep watching this space for more information!!!