How Maa beat cancer’s butt…

Every time I think of my Maa chasing her cancer away, I always imagine her running behind a pesky rodent with a “cheemta” (tongs) in her hand. And what is a rodent compared to the indomitable spirit of a woman. And like any woman who finds her home invaded by a tiny rodent, Maa went about the task of cleaning up her body off cancer with the single-minded grit and persistence of a really hungry feline.

It all started when I was in Mumbai, and she in Bangalore. I think I have always somehow been in Mumma’s girl. I love her almost as much as I love bitching about her. And one day on our daily calls, she confessed that something was wrong, that the doctors had insisted on a biopsy of her left breast.

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Of course, the doctors were wrong; my mom couldn’t have cancer, she does Pranayama every day! At least that is what I thought until my confidence came shattering down, when I realized that unstoppable forces of nature also pause, and Pranayama moms also fall.

We were on a call, when she said, “Bas ek mastectomy ho jayegi. Theek ho jayungi.” I smiled at the courage it would have taken her to brush it off like your everyday dental filling.

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When women drive big cars…

“Beta, don’t you think you should travel by cab?” my dad ventured, hesitant at first, firm later and positively, relentless thereafter. I had been listening to him and my mother moan and crib about their precious daughter driving a massive Tata Safari around the city on a daily basis, for more than two years now.

It also doesn’t help that after successfully maneuvering my car all the way from ITPL to Kormangala three times a week during peak hours, for two years has still not instilled enough trust in my parents to take a 3km ride with me.

Every single time I venture to take them shopping or other chores, relentlessly at first, firm later and then hesitantly thereafter, they respond as if I have suggested taking them to a brothel.

The vehemence in their voice when they say, “Nahee! We are not taking your car. We would rather go by cab.” makes me believe that they probably think I run over three men and two kids every time I take my car out. And the only reason I am not rotting in prison or hell; is because of the Thursday fasts and pujas that my mom religiously keeps.

Having witnessed such lack of faith, for so long, I began contemplating; Why?! Why such distrust for women drivers, especially for the ones who drive an SUV?

woman-in-suv

Lets get this straight, people still need a lot of conditioning to get used to a woman driving. The ones, who actually are used to women driving, expect her to be in a hatchback, not a sedan, definitely not an SUV, and God help her if she dares to drive a jeep.

Because she is a woman, and of course she would look good in, you know, those cute little Japanese toy cars that are electric blue, green, or white, or yellow. If it is a pink Reva, it is even better. All those post retirement uncles and aunties would give you looks of approval, even smile at you and call you “Beta.”

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Escape from midlife crises – A to-do guide for women & men

“Life is a prison”, now I didn’t say that. Someone did, someone completely inconsequential to this write up. That would explain why I don’t feel even a teeny bit of inclination to make you aware of his or her name.

But if life is a prison then mid-life is the Green mile. It is one those fancy semi colon tattoos that everyone is getting, as if “a down on his luck 40 year old” is even going to notice the tiny semi colon strategically placed near your wrist.

But your tattoo is not the reason for this write up. It is the prison of your mid – life and how to escape it.

Now, it is extremely critical to understand that mid-life crises differs from men to women. For example a woman, almost every single month gets minute mid life shocks when she starts PMSing. But for men it comes like a meteor falling over their head out of nowhere.midlife-crises-women

So, let me start with an escape route for women.

Ladies, believe me you have it easy.

You hit 36/37 or the 38 mark. You realize the kids are gone or almost vanishing, the husband doesn’t notice your new hair cut. Continue reading

Friend with a Question Mark

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“This doesn’t feel right” he says.

“It doesn’t have to”

You want to say more and your face does that twitchy thing it does when you’re lying but it doesn’t matter because you’ve just switched off the lights in your roof garden, it’s well past midnight and he’s looking away and it isn’t until he lights the joint that you would meet his eyes.

Weed doesn’t work its magic on you but you didn’t smoke much either. He had to pluck it out of your hand after you coughed hysterically, collapsing on the ground beside a cactus pot. You are surprised by your theatricality, you’ve put worse things in your mouth out of sheer curiosity. You’re afraid your curiosity is merely a euphemism for something dark and twisted. He doesn’t need to know any of that and neither should you need to know anything about his life. Life is long and complicated and you feel lucky for being in this moment.

It was only yesterday though, when you were anything but delighted – you were pissed that you’d reach home to find someone in there already, a pair of eyes, a pair of limbs, a pair of ears, someone breathing in the same space as you. You have to learn to be live with people, your mom had said on the phone, stressing every word, but she’d corrected herself soon enough, cautioning you not to do any drugs-wugs and you were angry about that as well, or at least you wanted to be.

But on your way home through that night, you felt a pang of thrill knowing that you were headed towards something, that you were not hurtling with your eyes closed into a cold dead space as always, that someone was waiting for you in your house, walking around and breathing and touching objects that have known no human but you.

You’re relieved to discover that you can be silent around him and he can be silent around you but you try to be funny when you can and he tries to laugh and you both pretend not to take anything seriously. You’ve never learnt your lessons in intimacy but he looks broken too – why would he be here, otherwise?

Three nights through and you’re convinced he smokes for a good night’s sleep. He asks you whether you’ve watched that movie that you’d played for him that night four years ago when he was too high and you forced him to sleep over at your place. You tell yourself that he lives in the moment but truly, you’re swept by a wave of sadness, and a crumbling bitterness for you have, on a good number of nights, reminisced about that night you’d watched that movie together. It used to be a memory worth revisiting but only for you.

There comes another night, and he’s used to sharing his joint with you. You’re on the roof garden again, with your back on the floor, lying next to each other and he’s whispering his recurrent epiphany about the chasm between the phenomenal world and the ‘actual’ world.

“It isn’t about building more houses and raising children and slogging for months in cubicles and grocery shopping and sex and obesity and hero worship and politics and… ”

You yawn in the minute it takes for him to choose the next word. “Reality TV.”

Reality is starkly different, he says, and you cannot disagree.

What to make of the presence of an old friend in your life occupies your mind to and fro from work. You were happy to have had to call him up from work, asking him to be available when the delivery boy comes with groceries you’d ordered before you left for work, not because of the convenience of it but because it made you sound like everyone else who had a life. You are twenty five and insecure and hopeful and afraid and silly and lustful.

You’re sad he’s taken away your depressing omegle hours, that you can’t croon Adele’s ‘Don’t You Remember’ in the shower anymore, that you can’t sleep only in your coffee-beans boxers and nude-dance to Katy Perry’s ‘This is How We Do It’ in the kitchen. You’re glad though, that you have a reason now to stop imagining bringing that hot guy who stays 898 meters away from you overnight. His nickname is ‘Soulmate’ with a question mark and he blocked you when you refused to send your ‘pic’ to him citing the oft-cited ‘I can’t chat with faceless profiles’ excuse but you’re convinced something gave away your ugliness and desperation before he could take a look at your sloppy pimply face. It probably broke your heart but you couldn’t stop fantasizing about him. You wonder sometimes whether his prompt refusal relieved you of a greater pain that you might have had to endure had he taken interest in what some like to call your little ‘quirks’ (which tend to be either cute or annoying, depending on things out of your control). You can fantasize about him now because it’s all in your head and it’s all within your reach.

You’re at the Corner House three blocks away from your house. You chose your apartment over a swankier option because it was two blocks away from Gold’s Gym and for once in your life, you wanted to make healthy lifestyle choices. Three months after having moved here, you’re still a treadmill-virgin and the last time you probably broke a sweat was when you ate an entire tub of mango ice-cream. You visit Corner House every weekend and they know your order (it’s not mango anymore) before you state it and are now probably surprised to find you have company today.

A voice in your head tells you that maybe it’s all in your head. Maybe you’re lonely only in your head, and no one actually sees you as a lonely person, because although they don’t have reasons to believe otherwise, they barely notice you or think about you. You look happy, you always do or at least you don’t look sad or have the words to talk about your sadness because it isn’t sadness or happiness but just a gaping absence of either. They don’t know, as they watch you eat your Caramel Cashew Delight, that you watched ‘Toy Story-3’ again last night because you knew it would make you weep uncontrollably and that it did.

He asks you if you’ve any plans that he’s coming in the way of. It’s Saturday. You sense that he’s not looking for a yes as an answer, that this is a cruel inquiry into your abject loneliness and lack of social life. You tell him your friends are all abroad, that it was more ‘fun’ years ago when you were all just out of college and stayed together. You’ve never stayed with friends even when you were pretty sure you had at least one acquaintance whom you could reasonably call a friend. You have had friends in childhood, which is a different life altogether, when the criteria for friendship was proximity and availability to play the same sport as you but lately, the plural of ‘friend’ gives you a funny jolt in your stomach. You tell him your friends are at ASU, UCLA, Illinois, Penn State. You’re fabricating a social life in real-time, re-visiting Instagram feeds of your classmates, preparing yourself for pointed questions about their life and your time together. You do have a friend at ASU but it miffs you that you are the kind of person who questions whether he’s still friends with someone who chats with him at 3 AM about what he did over the weekend. Gladly, he does not implore further.

He has been at your place for a week now and you’re running out of reasons to stay away. You don’t know why and you don’t want to question your motives. You work long hours. You take longer walks in supermarkets. You even visit the once if only to enquire about their plans (that you may as well have perused online at your leisure) and whether they have an in-house qualified nutritionist consultant and whether they host Zumba and aerobics sessions. You spend hours with coffee cups and ghee roast dosas. You hop from restaurant to restaurant and there’s no dearth of food that makes you more fat and miserable and keeps even the lesser Soulmate-with-Question-Marks out of your reach. When you reach home, you tell him you’ve had dinner. You feel the guilt every night but he appears unconcerned and maybe you deserved to find this out the hard way – that he doesn’t mind not having your company, that he merely needs a place to crash until an actual friend comes by to replace your clumsy attempts at intimacy.

You call your mom and tell her how pissed you are at not having any ‘personal space’. He’s your friend, she tells you and you feel reassured. She reminds you again, not to do any drugs-wugs.

It’s 8 PM when he texts you that he’s leaving. It’d take you an hour to reach and he can’t wait that long. He says he’d keep the keys with the neighbor aunty.

You knew this day would come. You knew you’d be on your way home one night to find it empty. You wish you could lie on your back on the cold floor of your roof garden. He’d be by your side, reluctantly offering you a joint, saying how it doesn’t feel right. He’d see you as he saw you a decade or more ago when you were a different person. You would one day come to rank this fantasy over the one about meeting Soulmate with a question mark.

 

My Envy – In All Honesty

You know what I can’t stand? Insufferable prick-writers who are probably describing say….an action scene…the two-faced son-of-a-gun who raped your wife and stole your life’s belongings while pretending to be your best friend is on the loose, and you chase him on one of those fancy-named sports cars, with a nine-inch revolver and a backup butcher knife just in case, and suddenly, just as you almost nailed the line-of-sight to shoot the motherfucker’s tires like a piñata annihilated at a five-year-old’s birthday bash, you stop. You gear down your story to screech-halt, no not because you want an urgent pee so that you don’t have to halt in between the brutal head smash that you have planned. But because there is a sunflower field, in full bloom, and you’d probably be OK with it if it was a tear-jerker scene, holding the hands of your dead wife, while the wind blew through her hair, and the salt of your tears mixed with the sweat of your palms, adding further adrenaline to your enraged screams for later, but no…you are just admiring the sunflower field….the hue of the falling sun warms your hardened heart, the dew drops on the leaves are your uncried tears, the fucking cat in the corner is your listlessness personified, everything is oh so sad and whimsical.

And what’s worse, while you, the semi-turned-on reader is now cursing the inappropriately timed tease of the writer, you suddenly notice a few other readers gliding to a gentle pause as they step out of their own literary rides, totally entranced by the copulating sunflower bees as if they were on psychedelic vines dished out by shamans in Peru. You know…. the manicured reader, stepping out of her ride with the refinement of Convent English, her husband is a ‘dear’ even after the three no-good brats masquerading as the ‘Saints’ in hill station-schools, and in every flower that stand together, they see the nuances of writing, the finesse of the technique that awakens the fellowship that drives the bravery of the protagonist, right before he beats the pulp of the bored-to-coma villain who is probably contemplating suicide by ingesting a pound of sunflower seeds than listening to the drivel slushed around.

 

 

Birthdays – The beeps of a ticking time bomb

As you grow older – and oh boy, are you getting older faster than you thought you would – you realise, birthdays are like the beeping reminders of a ticking time bomb. You have thirty more beeps to go before you explode, or fifty, or five, depending on how you are programmed.

Now, do you want to worry about the bomb the whole time it’s beeping, or do you want to forget that the explosion is inevitable, and therefore, you go ahead and indulge in things that make you happy? Like, I don’t know, perhaps, you go and make yourself a sandwich? Or watch a video on YouTube where people are tripping on hoverboards, or read a book about the Nagas or the secret or the secret of the Nagas, or get a tattoo, or have sex on your leather couch. Although, if you ask me, you wouldn’t enjoy having sex, if there is a ticking time bomb involved. But on the other hand – the hand, that you aren’t using for sex – it would be totally wild if you enjoyed it, despite being aware of the bomb in the back of your head. The bomb, that somehow feels like it’s strapped to your chest – there is no escaping from it and you’re a breathing kamikaze.

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And so what, if some of them continuously but subtly remind you, that you have lesser amount of beeps left than they do, and yet, you are spending it all on unimportant things; like finding happiness and peace and being as yourself as you can be. And not on more important things; like worrying and being an opportunist and reproducing, and all that. But all you know, and oh god, in your own very heart you know it’s fucking true, that you’ve not only survived through all the beeps so far but also enjoyed their sounds and learned from them, shit, you even danced to a few.

But the only problem, as it appears to you, is that somehow the beeps have now sped up. Every beep, seems like it arrived before its time, and yes, you, of course, weren’t ready for this one, and this one, and the one that is about to come, and the one that is here, and the one that will be forgotten soon.

So what do you do? Give it an old college try? A few desperate attempts in vain, to cease the moment? Because the bomb isn’t going to diffuse itself. Is it? But ah, then it all dawns on your thick skull, that there aren’t any plausible diffusing mechanisms known yet.

So then whatever, this whole fuckery and the creators of it can suck on a giant donkey hog, and that’s about how much you care!

You obviously can’t step out of the blast radius – because it’s that big – and it’s also a no-brainer, that you try very very hard to give a fuck, and hello …? That’s the best you could do. So you chin-up, make yourself one more sandwich, read one more book, have sex one more time, and do not bother, or cry, or worry, or reproduce. But that is because reproducing to you, sounds a lot like sex went horribly wrong.

Meanwhile, the bomb has beeped a couple of more times, and one beep dissimilar to many other beeps from the past, sounds a lot like an epiphany of some sort, but duh, just a temporary one. You already know, it is going to explode some day, but you still turn a corner, and someone close to you comes over and whispers in your ears, wow good one, things are looking better, aren’t they? Keep them up! And you say, thank you very much, and yet, somehow, by the next beep or the one after that, you fuck it all up, and congratulations, you’re back to square one.

But never mind, this all shall, and must, balance itself out, because, after all, it did pop-up on its own. Didn’t it? You did not plant the bomb, they did not put a snooze button on it, and oh yes, you know intuitively, acting a fool has perks involved in some good way, so go ahead and forget the beeps, put rave in crave, and the blessings shall be bestowed upon thee.

It’s a drag!

This is what I said to the guy at the barber shop the other day, when he read me a section from the newspaper that reported about a tobacco company that was shut down by the government, in order to keep the society healthy, and then, what I told him wasn’t entirely factual, but he took me seriously anyway.

Anyway, I said, back in the time and the place of which I am speaking, due to our government had mandated us all, we all had been told, that tobacco, and other crudely manufactured leaves that produced pernicious fumes, which now we know are hazardous, but back then,  were told to be good for your lungs and your throat and your neck and your tongue and your tonsil and your skin and your whole body, so they often advertised saying, go on and smoke what you feel you must, see how it lightens you in the head, for, on a scale of one to euphoria, attaining euphoria is an absolute myth, but the main thing is, what you are getting by smoking tobacco, is the only thing that is close to what you can attain. So have fun, make the most of it, don’t you shy away, it’s all alright!

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And then in the nights, when one was done with the day, and when one was told he can go home and smoke after work, you would find one, and by one, I mean even the ten year olds, exhaling rings out of their mouths, entangled one inside the other, which now looks very much like the logo of a renowned brand of a car, but back then, was only a way to show off their skills. So you would find rolls and packets and cubes and all the tobacco crumbs in one’s house, by the room, by the lamp, by the kitchen, by the sink, by the ring, by all damn things.

And that’s all I am saying it was back then.

And also, what I am saying is, who could blame Nate, Continue reading