Testing times

“There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” – Zora Neale Hurston.

I just read that quote here and it resonated most vigorously with me because for more than nine months now I have been going through questions, questions and more ‘testy’ questions..and I still can’t seem to find the light at the end of this dark and dreary question tunnel..

The more troubling part is that I can’t find the thread that holds my whole life story together. Why is this annoying year even happening to me? Is this year going to end soon or is it going to run into another year, or more? It’s certainly not going to be like this forever, right? Right? RIGHT?! Oh hell, say something!

This year has had possibly the most number of nerve-wracking months in any year since 2010. The current year is like a minefield with an extensive variety of landmines. By ‘landmines’ I mean bad days; but not just your average bad day…a little worse than that…like, a bad day in a bad week of a bad month of a bad year. In my case of landmines, there’s at least one such day in a week waiting to explode in my face, tear me limb from limb, and send me into an emotional vortex, and finally plonk me into a teary grave. I sleep it off. And if the next morning I still feel like a train wreck then I write it off. I mean I LITERALLY WRITE-OFF the discomfort. (RELEASE: wRiting hElps Lighten thE loAd, wordS Escape.)

All the exploded landmines in the year so far have made me so sensitive from the inside that I keep my guard up constantly. So in this state of affairs it has naturally become unthinkable to think of anyone beyond myself and that has to be the sickest part. It feels like I don’t even know myself anymore. Had I always been this selfish? There is no way to retrace my path back to where I felt I was on the right track to being a better human being: I lost track of the path of my evolution. It’s all a mess. I’m probably what one calls a ‘spiritual goner’. And for a spiritual goner I have too many emotions, soft spots, and depression-triggers. The only good thing about this condition is that PMS pales in comparison to it.

This year is also marked with intermittent phases of depression like black-holes in the unbounded space of bad days. Depression is the only thing worse than the landmines. I can never pinpoint the entry points, nor map the escape routes out of these holes. I just keep dreading them. Only last week, on a dusky Saturday evening, when I had lain down on my bed to soak in my ocean of depressing thoughts I felt a common red ant crawling up my arm to bite me any second then. I instinctively crushed it with my thumb and a sharp pain of anguish and remorse shot through my entire body, top to toe, a million times more painful than what the poor ant would have caused me if at all it had bitten me. The horrible pangs of repentance, I can vividly recall even now. I retracted my thumb almost immediately but the damage had been done by then: the ant’s limbs were all twisted out of shape. It was the first time perhaps that I truly, with the full force of truth and wisdom, realized that an ant’s life or the life of any living creature was in no way inferior to mine.  This also made me realize that I wouldn’t have had this realization, this intense shock of repentance, had I not been soaking in depression. Depression ‘marinated’ me, and brought out the sensitive side of me to a great extent, like how chicken marinated in yogurt brings out its flavors…!!!! Oh the thought of killing, marinating, cooking and consuming a hale and hearty bird! Horrendous! That meant that I had lived through the major part of my life being remorselessly insensitive, growing harder and tougher and more self-obsessed with time, not to mention killing ants and hens left and right. The awareness that I had otherwise (that is, when I’m free of depression) become so self-obsessed added to the already cluttered baggage of emotions: guilt. Guilty of not sparing a thought to family, guilty of forgetting to wish best friend on her birthday, guilty of not staying in touch with many other special ones…the list is endless.

In the midst  of all this shit, the year also featured the re-emergence of a love affair which I had thought was dead and gone by the beginning of the year. I interpreted the re-emergence of ‘love’ as the return of the cool monsoon showers after a particularly torrid period of solitude and soul-searching. I thought that that ‘love’ might be the elusive light at the end of the tunnel. It was neither monsoon, nor light: it was a farce. The guy had inadequacy, insecurity, and insincerity written all over him but my love was as blind as true love. “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.”  The differences/alterations we found along the way, of religion, caste, creed etc. would not have altered this ‘love’ had it been love. I always knew he was a hypocrite and a snake but I also believed that no person was constant, which was why I gave him a second chance. Thus, I had it coming for me. And, before I could judge correctly and get my guard up, it exploded with the force of a truckload of landmines right in my unsuspecting heart. He ditched me all over again. The re-emergence resurrected all those fuzzy feelings, at times warm and at times hot, which gave it enough pressure to finally explode. After all, the whole re-emergence episode was a mega-landmine in the array of landmines, and the year continues to test me. And in the aftermath, today’s newspaper headlines indicatively and rather mockingly read, “Ebola’s re-emergence, a wake-up call”. If ‘Ebola’ stood for ‘ex-lover’, the ‘wake-up call’ in my case pertains to perhaps these questions: “Had I not learnt anything from the previous episode of rejection by the same fucking guy?”, “If and when Ebola (read: any ex-lover) strikes again, would we be able to deal with it better?” It’s high time I worked on the answers to these questions. In any case, I have always maintained and still do maintain this: It’s his loss. I love back, like always. ‘Redamancy‘ is a beautiful word.

The year so far with all its helter skelter rush through the minefield was not without its aleatory moments of happy clarity. For instance, right now I clearly think that when all of this passes, whenever that may be, I shall be glad I had one day taken the time out to write this post. I longed to write this one for over two weeks now but could not as last Sunday I had a major ‘test’ (which was a mini-minefield in itself), which surely added a lot of heat to these testing times, and it took me till today to reorient myself to the normal pace of things. So relieved the test is done, so glad the post is written and so ready to sleep today’s landmine damage off!

Micchami Dukkadam

Khamemi Savve Jiva
Savve Jiva Khamantu me
Mitti me Savva Bhooesu
Veram Majjham Na Kenvi
Michchhami Dukkadam

The above literally translates to:

I forgive all living beings.
May all souls forgive me,
I am on friendly terms with all,
I have no animosity toward any soul.
May all my faults be dissolved.

                              Thanks to my brush with a particularly specious variety of Jainism which came in the form of a particularly specious boyfriend in an equally specious relationship which ends just about now in my head. R.I.P, Love Affair. It was as a ramification of this acquaintance that I had started to take more than a casual interest in ‘true’ Jain philosophy. To hell with the specious variety that most of the Jains of the day, like this aforementioned ex, have tailored out of real Jainism to suit their non-spiritual needs and ultra-violent desires.
Anyway, today happens to be Jain Samvatsari celebrated as Kshamavani or Forgiveness Day. Like all religious doctrines formulated by thinkers and philosophers such as Buddha, Mahavira, Bodhisattvas, Tirthankara, Prophet Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Forgiveness Day was quite obviously devised and put in place to drive home the psychological concept and virtue of forgiveness; in other words, it was cleverly brought into common conscience to give the common people a taste, on one day of the year, of the benefits of the state of mind of a forgiver. Kinda like a primer. And by driving home this concept, the thought leaders envisaged that subsequent generations of followers would make every day of the year a Forgiveness Day, that they’d absorb the virtue into their spiritual beings (as it fits perfectly with the overall Jain ideology) and that the need for a particular day (of the  year) set apart as Forgiveness Day would fall off eventually like dead skin off a healed wound.
But, as mortifying as it must be for all the dead saints, their subsequent followers (like my specious ex-boyfriend) have perverted the idea of Kshamavani in more than one way in the name of religion. For instance, I can think of two ways off-the-cuff, coming directly from ‘up-close and personal experience’. One of the ways: a specious, deviant Jain would not think it fit to forgive someone or some creature on an ordinary day of the year as he thinks he ought to forgive, if at all, only on Kshamavani! Another of the ways: a specious, perverted Jain would interpret the purpose of Kshamavani as a foolproof license to hurt and torture every living creature all round the year in the expectation of washing all the guilt away on Kshamavani!
What I am trying to say is that I am dismayed at how this perverted set of Jains has totally killed not only Kshamavani but also every single virtuous tenet of Jainism, be it truth or non-violence; my sentiment is succinctly put by Martin Luther King Jr. when he said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.”
On this day, as henceforth on all other days of the year, I, in the spirit of true humanity, forgive all and seek their forgiveness. Also, I forgive me for cracking under pressure, for having insecurities about my precious identity ever (which has to stop), for giving untrustworthy assholes the benefit of the doubt every single time (which I won’t stop anyway because everyone deserves yet another chance to prove their sincerity and I haven’t yet learnt/identified the limit where one ought to stop giving chances when pleaded with for that ‘one last chance’!). I also forgive, with no reluctance, my specious, insincere, untrustworthy, spineless, unscrupulous, double-dealing ex-boyfriend for every last bit of pain that I took upon myself.

Micchami Dukkadam

Do you know I am going to leave you?

Today. Maybe, tomorrow. One day I am going to leave you and wouldn’t give you a clue. I’m burning all the letters that ever passed between us, one at a time. The letters you sent that summer you were abroad boning that older woman while writing about how much you missed me. The letters you sent from college while you were still figuring out if you’d fallen in love with me. The letters you sent, while you were trying hard to be a kid at heart, from home where you were catching your breath mostly. I tore up all our pictures in half. I flushed down all the little trinkets you called ‘twinkly valentine gifts’ and shed one solid tear to go along. I’m making fast and steady progress, don’t you think? The kids, well, expired. I wonder if you remember how many there were. One sultry Sunday evening we gave birth to four, lying on our bare backs, under the stars. We squeezed in one more a little later that night, and you declared, “let’s have a glorious bundle of five, not four,” because there was still space for one more in the imaginary crib and the imaginary car and we were young enough to accommodate, if only in imagination. It’s not like I had to drown them in the bathtub or anything. I don’t think of them and they don’t exist therefore. One way or another, the physical objects and the imaginary ones are shown the exit door. What would I do with the memories though? They stick on to me like skin. Last Sunday the skin on my fingers got burnt by accident on a hot plate. It pained like hell that day. Over the last one week I couldn’t feel anything on those burnt parts of my hand. But, today when I woke up I saw the skin on those fingers started peeling off painlessly. How do I make the same happen to my memories of you, and your letters, and your trinkets and the babies?
I’m positive I’ll figure out a way soon and the day I do that I would leave you without giving you a clue, just the way you did.

Show me a good time!

That’s what I hear my inner voice screaming out to my inorganic exterior every time I go back into the ladies washroom (because it is seemingly private unlike any other space in the office) to check upon how my ‘rich, inner self’ is doing in the course of a workday. That, very often, and some times it repeatedly warns me with a nervous twitch, “Abhi meeting hain, aur leakage ki tension” where leakage is not as in a Whisper ad, but as in ’emotional leakage’. Yes, I need to be warned because I find it excruciatingly painful to have to conceal signs of revulsion – like nausea, shortness of breath, palpitations, shakiness, pins and needles, flushing – when I’m expected to watch a series of videos like this AND applaud AND be moved to tears like every other co-employee, as part of the ‘Office Day’ celebrations presided over by the CEO, once a month. Menstruation is not the worst part of the month anymore.

The CEO of the place I work at eats clichés for breakfast, packs clichés in a lunch-box and force-feeds everyone in office with clichés dipped in condescension. I hate him, much like I hate every one else I come into the slightest contact with at office and my hatred runs to the molecular level…that if you rub off some cells from the inside of my cheek onto a cotton swab while I’m at office and isolate the DNA and then check that DNA under a high-powered electron microscope, English translation of my DNA sequence would read different combinations of the letters H, A, T, E and not A, T, C, G running along the length of every strand. In a manner of speaking. That is extreme epigenetics at play.

As sour and plagued as I may sound by the idea of working a white-collar job, the fact is that I have only had to work for a mere three months minus seven days so far. I am a new yuppie on the bandwagon. I’d managed to squeeze in more weekend parties and reunions and girls’ night-outs than what I estimated I could under two months, given the work conditions. So, I am supposed to be having a good time right now in this new and exciting place but I am not. My soul is still screaming out to the universe to show it a good time. In the middle of a workday, in the middle of a meeting with the snob-stink CEO, in the middle of a regular weekend outing, in the middle of shopping for a good book, in the middle of running into an old friend, in the middle of a good short nap. Nothing I do on the weekend to placate my enraged inner self seems to make up for the A-class shit I have to put it through for the rest of the week.

While I’m spending my precious weekend time every week (of which I just get half because Saturday is a working day) cribbing and mentally reliving the cock-flavored working days of the week like this, every other person I know (in more or less the same situation as me) is enjoying the weekend hours with no thought or flying fuck spared to give to their respective offices/bosses. Why am I not able to do that? I have no logical answer to that but I pose that question to myself every now and then in order to keep up the good habit of introspection or psychological self-preservation.

Some of the statements that emanate out of the sparsely distributed, fleeting moments of my vague introspection: I lost my sparkle and my sense of humor and I know not where to look for those. I struggle to put my thoughts to paper. I am afraid of censure now more than ever. I am afraid of love and I ooze ghosts of my past lovers. I hate to get back in touch with my friends who are married (whether they married total strangers or long-time lovers.) More so if they married their lovers. I believe it is hypocritical and unnatural to marry someone you already love. It’s all over for me now. I enjoy drinking coffee only as much as I enjoy looking at it in pictures. With chocolate, the situation is much worse.

On a side note, some of the things that were waiting all these years to fall into my list of most-hated things ever AND finally did: touch-sensitive phones, friends who talk too much about themselves and not even bother asking what’s up with you, high-school friends who you had no respect for when in high school. There were reasons why you hated someone when in school and those reasons remain whether or not you remember them.

Gone Case

Into the middle of things, I drive myself daily, and get a bit lost…
Into the midst of your diamond-like words, I push a pebble, and suffer silence.
Into the heart of truth, I send a lie, and die a little.
Into the aura of your presence, I enter, and disappear a little.
Into the bubble of your reality, I squeeze in, and burst at the seams.
Into the light of your being, I step foot, and extinguish a little.
Into you, I am, and I’m gone completely.

The Magic Carpet

I know, that night, lying on our magic carpet
in the quarter-light, floating in our little dorm,
we cared not about those details
that bother when in broad daylight,
we didn’t mind the improprieties
that pinch when in public spaces.

We were sailing close to the wind,
communicating through fingertips,
unknowing the memories that pricked…
We veered through a common dreamspace,
nestled into each others’ chests
and memorized the sounds they made…
Yes, that night I cried, like that bizarre fish
that refills its own pond of water,
copious tears that went over both our heads
and the carpet sank so deep
that all its magic went down with it.

 

Leftovers from last night!

When my fusty little room is brimming
with leftovers as these from a certain meeting –
your big winter jacket with leather straps,
your weathered pocket book with local road maps,
your box of matches about half-empty,
loose, scattered coins about twenty or thirty,
all left behind on the tabletop, in the dark;
the poetry book you lovingly bookmarked,
the wilting red rose in a fat milk bottle,
my drugged slumber too powerful to throttle;
(hence) your unread message pasted to the door,
with a promise to meet again and so much more,
in the winter garden beyond the street
like crazy teenage lovers, reckless, indiscreet –
I’d buy a glass bowl with that loose change perhaps,
into which would go one of your leather straps,
the wilting rose pressed in my book of poems,
your love message rolled into the bottle,
and a page or two from the tattered guide;
and that bowl will stand by my bedside…
while we steal away into the gleaming moonlight,
with aim and hope to renew our promise by daylight
and thus I mark newer objects for the bowl daily
until all that is yours becomes mine slowly
and all that is mine, yours…
Then we belong to the bowl of memories,
just the two of us, the two of us entirely.
The next winter in the white winter garden
under the falling white snow,
swaying to familiar winter songs,
in a silent bliss,
we might just wonder if
we are that couple in a snow globe!

Two lovers

Two lovers