Intoxicated

She runs her hand lightly on the spines of the books on her towering shelves. She picks one at random, reads a few pages, puts it back, picks another, puts it back. Her mind cannot stick to the story, or the characters.  When it does, she feels even more lost and trapped. All her books seem to be about inevitable pain, and helplessness in front of fate. Even the summaries on the back of the books talk about already “doomed” protagonists. When did her books become so depressing, and cynical, and tragic? She remembers when she started reading “grown up” books; books that were not in the Young Reader’s section at the book store. She was thrilled, she felt like a grown up. When did growing up become synonymous with tragedy?

Unable to settle, she roams about the house. Her grandmother’s room looks to the east, and the rays of the sun are slipping through the crack between the two curtains, lighting up the haze of dust. She draws the curtains aside, only to be blinded by the light. She cannot comprehend the emptiness of the room, but the utter silence is somewhat comforting. After days of endless chatter of her relatives, the necessary small talk, the societal rituals of mourning, the silence feels like waking up after a long harrowing nightmare.

The landing on the first floor opens to a terrace balcony. A worn out yoga mat sits in the corner, its navy color fading. She wants to smile at her innocently good intentions. She tries to ease the wrinkles on her forehead, but that is oddly uncomfortable. Her face struggles to get back to the new normal, unable to handle the momentary release from the strain.

Memories of this terrace flicker across her eyes. She remembers sitting her in the evenings, getting her hair oiled by her grandmother, eating almonds. She remembers endless games of carom, accompanied by lemonade. She remembers the frustration and sleepless nights, when she dealt with  her exam stress by walking to and fro in the cool night air. She remembers tears of joy and relief at finally getting admission to her first choice of university. She remembers dance practices and hard work. She remembers long discussions, the aimless chatter, the unhesitating laughter. She remembers the mechanical answers as she replied to variants of Congratulations on your first job! She remembers the loneliness that slowly sneaked up on her, as she became quieter and quieter. She remembers the months of guilt as she willed herself everyday to function, to show up at work, to pick up the pieces of her life, to switch off the autopilot, to do more than simply exist. And she remembers the phone call, the dread, the cold sweat breaking over her again and again, as she begged, and prayed, and hoped, that she had heard wrong, that Naani was fine, that it was not her fault that she had not been available to talk, or to listen.

The attic smells musty. No one has come up here since ages. The place is crammed with boxes, and knick-knacks lie scattered on the floor. She sees several dinner sets that they never got around to using, each gifted to the family by someone or the other every Diwali. She sees her old bicycle, stabilizers thrown into the basket. There are four huge boxes full of old photo albums, picture stories of three generations.

She has never been intoxicated. Always the model child, she never had the urge to try out something forbidden, to experiment, to experience. She never rebelled, never sneaked out at night, never had a secret party, never even painted her nails black. She wonders if she missed out on things, but she knows, deep down, that she never would have dared. She has been raised on a diet of obedience and guilt.

And yet she often finds herself thinking of the small bottle of brandy in the medicinal cabinet nowadays, fighting a mad desire to take a couple of swigs. She wonders, almost academically, what it would feel like to be drunk. Would she really forget for a while?

She finds what she is looking for. In this corner of the attic are boxes labelled Books. Here lie the stacks of Nancy Drew, the literal mountains of innumerable series of Enid Blyton, the Judy Blumes. These are the books that made her fall in love with reading. These are the characters that are brave, and never fail, and are always the heroes of their own stories. They are never hindered by things outside their control, they never feel helpless.

She is meticulous this time, and picks up the books in order of their series number. The characters wave at her like old friends, the familiar words ease the knots in her stomach. If she concentrates very hard, she can just taste her childhood. She tells herself this is healthier; at least she’s not zoning out in front of the TV.

It is dark in the attic. Her eyes turn red with strain as she devours book after book. The characters from all the series are getting mixed up but she doesn’t want to stop. As she drags herself down to her bedroom after several hours, her eyes nearly closed, her head pounding, and her body heavy with tiredness that comes from mental exhaustion, it strikes her that the brandy may not be the only way of getting drunk.

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The White Lie

Can nothing be a thing,

That is heavy on the heart?

Can nothing be a knife,

That carves out a hollow in the chest?

Can nothing be dark,

Engulfing the air around, suffocating me?

It seems to have too much character for being nothing.

 

It approaches every night

And I am afraid of sleep.

It approaches every dawn

And I am afraid of the day,

Of going through the motions,

The endless rituals of what we call life,

As I hide behind the mask of a white lie;

“I am afraid of nothing.”

Paper Boats

boat paper, water, dream, water, fullscreen

I would ask for meanings, if allowed,
Of the many words which float
As messages in paper boats do;
There for all the world to see.
Because I am afraid now
Of falling off the cliff of difference
That seems to be present
Between what is said,
And what I understand.

These words seem miraculous
For they sound as if spoken
From the depths of my own agony
Instead of the writer’s;
Perhaps it is the same?
But the words are not mine
And I dare not claim anymore
To understand what was meant.

To ask for meanings,
I must sail my own boats
And that plan suffers
From the same flaw of interpretation.
But I must, of course,
For there exists now a vast ocean
And only a vessel made of feeble paper.
I can only hope
That the ocean does not engulf it.

Then again, the ocean is free after all.
Who knows if the boat was even headed my way.

The Equinox Girl

Day #15 of Blogtember.

Monday, September 23: A “life lately” post. What you’re up to, how you’re feeling, how you’re doing on your goals, etc. Bonus points for great photos!

Today’s prompt has come at the right time. Because…

23 September also happens to be the Autumnal Equinox. Well, it falls on either 22, 23 or 24 of September. I’m considering the mean! Which means the length of day and night is nearly equal. Perfect balance! When I studied about it for the first time in grade 4 (I think), I was thrilled! It was exciting to see my birthday printed in my textbook.

And I always do a “life lately” on my birthday. I don’t normally post  personal stuff, so this is going to be a change from the routine. (Reminder to self: Blogging was also about breaking self-made boundaries).

upto

+ Learning “certain” things. It’s opening up a lot of possibilities. Okay, I know that doesn’t reveal anything. Old habits die hard!

+ Studying (Duh!).

+ Building this blog and trying to make it reflect a small part of me. I think I’m halfway there. 🙂

+ Trying to reinforce balance in whatever I do. I’ve wasted a considerable time when the balance was tilted. It made me unhappy, dissatisfied, and I won’t let it happen again.

feeling

+ Restless, as if waiting for something to happen. And I’ve got a feeling, that whatever it is, it’s going to be great!

+ Nervous, about the future. What if it doesn’t turn out to be what I’ve imagined it to be? What if it does?

+ Charged up. Because whatever is coming my way, I’m determined to make it work for me.

+ Courageous. It’s a time of changes and new developments for me, and this time, I’m ready to welcome them, smiling.

try

+ In whatever I do, I try to focus on what is right for me, and not what others think is right for me.

+ I try to be in sync with myself. You can’t believe what a huge difference it makes.

I’m looking forward to the future. 🙂

How do you normally spend your birthdays? Do you evaluate your lives periodically?

Life, My Child

I imagine Life to be like a wild child. It has got hold of my plans. All of them were organised on sheets of paper. And now, Life is running amok with the sheets and scattering them along the way side. It is giggling, and teasing me, and challenging me to run after it. It sometimes just drops the sheets below the tree, and sometimes in the nearby brook, and then waits for me to find my plans dripping, and the ink on them fading away. When I try to dry those plans and squint my eyes to read what is written, it suddenly comes out in the open from behind the trees, laughing, and informs me like a know-it-all child that the sheet is ruined! I would have to write a new one. It bursts again into a peel of laughter and rushes ahead again.

I feel like a mother, trying to manage my naughty little child, called Life. Obey me! I say, and Life turns its nose away haughtily. Walk slowly, you’ll hurt yourself! I implore, but Life doesn’t listen. It runs and runs, without halting, along the rough path, and jumps around the puddles of rain. I keep on running behind but Life is too fast for me. And then, suddenly, without warning, Life slips! And falls on the stony path! And grazes itself on the elbow! And then, slowly, Life looks at me sheepishly, and gives a small smile. I smile back with the helplessness of a loving mother at her child’s naughtiness, and with the kindness of a concerned one. And I pick Life up, into my arms, and head back home. I bath my Life’s injured elbow, and dress it. Then I kiss Life’s forehead lovingly, and hand it a glass of hot milk. It drinks up slowly, and finally giving a satisfied and tired smile, Life falls back dreaming.

It is morning again. Life is completely cured and full of energy. It is practically bouncing with new ideas for the day. As Life opens the door of the house, and I wonder subconsciously what pranks it is planning on me today, suddenly, it turns back, and gives me a smile full of love, and true comradeship. I return the smile with equal love.

Of course, Life may play practical little jokes on the mother. It may tease me and poke me at times. But I’m glad for my child, my Life. I’m glad that every morning, I get to see my Life’s beautiful face. I’m glad that Life teaches me patience as any child teaches its mother. I’m glad to be able to love Life. And I’m glad that Life loves me back.