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The Deluge of Everything | Eat. F***. Pray

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Write. Write, I'm urged. But my fingers don't move. Must all be funny? Must all be pretty? Must all transcend above the madness, the clutter, the noise....so much noise. I don't want to write I say, there is too much clutter, too much junk out there. Everybody's speaking, everybody's ranting, there's too much to consume, too much to assimilate, too much shit to get through to find the gold. So I don't wan't to write. A drop in the ocean I will be. Or maybe one drop too many. I don't want to be noise. My fingers haven't moved in years. They begin...and then they stop, for can they imprint in the deluge out there today? The deluge of opinions, the deluge of feelings, the deluge of imagery, the trolls, the mad-hats, the maniacs, the rebels, the voices that matter but cannot be heard above the din.

We are drowning. In ... everything. Consumerism, tourism, terrorism, fascism, capitalism. Where do we start our days? What all do we traverse? What all do we try to be? Exist, persist, conquer, excel, accept, deny, rebel, fade, shine, tow the perfect line of not towing the line. Every action is a pluralistic choice. And we can never make the right one. What book should I read?  What milk should I drink? What phone should I buy? Should I work to feed my soul? Should I work to feed my body? The world is accelerating like a beamer on meth, the speedometer hitting the roof. Progress, they say. The pinnacle of human achievement. But is achievement the continous chase of the better, to the point that we never really enjoy what is being achieved? That we don't have time to simply exist, that we don't have the time or the choice to savour the achievements?




Come, come online, I'm urged. Put yourself out there, stop retreating. And so I try. Read, share. Click, post. Message, ping. Comment. And then the notifications begin. And I go about cleaning them, because well OCD. After a while I start feeling like an overgrown adult at a teenage event, and slink away.

I travel far and different. I walk about in high energy cities, feeling alive again. I go up mountains that are lonely no more, feeling high again. But no matter how high up you go, you can't escape into the realm of Buddha. It no longer exists. Too much hovers everywhere. Too many eyes. Too many beams. But home, though far in the desert, never feels too far. A tiny slice, of a building, in the corner of a random corner, in the center of the world. I return here, and it provokes me again. Look at it, a whole tiny civilization built out of absolute barrenness. Yes, the pinnacle of human achievement. But I can't help but feel like I'm in a bubble, in a world that can so easily fade away again. 

So I return, to the virtual world. A world you can scroll through.

Donald Trump, Donald Trump.

Cow vigilantes.

Pokeman.

ISIS.

Refugees. Remnants of societies coming to an end.

Human remains being dug up, skulls being detached from intact skeletons in the name of historical research.

Just as perhaps we might be in the long long future.

What will be our history? Will we too like all known civilizations end in a mighty bang. boom. flush? What will remain of ours thousands of years from now? Who will be our Aristotle? Will the future beings know of the existence of Columbus? Computers? Cloning? Will they know that we have left trash out in space, on planets, on the moon? The world is barrelling towards its own conclusion. Sometimes I'm too curious to know how it will all end, and what shall remain. I want to know, I want to know...I can hear a little girl singing in the sweetest of voices..."a hush, a push, and we all fall down..."

My husband is home from work. "It's been one of those days" he says, "I feel like there's a terrible itching in my mind". I help him relax, give him dinner, then we go to bed, have a good time. I go back to the book I was reading, he goes to sleep to recover. I wake up the next morning from a night of vivid dreams, say hello to God. He's scrolling through his facebook, and I spot a headline "FDA confirms chicken contains cancer-causing arsenic". "Oh God" I mutter, tired of having to curate the food we eat. "Nothing like that" he dismisses, "there is no arsenic in chicken". I am ready to believe it, and go put some chicken out for defrosting. In between preparing it, I go online, post some photos, then wonder why I post them. I scroll through ... Donald Trump...Donald Trump...Rape videos being sold in UP...the inspiring story of an Indian leg amputee.

Inspiration surges through me too, and I feel the burn to do something of value myself. My brain is hyperactive with ideas now. Excitement peaks quickly, and then I chance upon that omnipresent article on Tolstoy decoding why we exist and the meaning of life. I read it and look skywards to the ceiling in contemplation, detect the faint sound of a bird on that lone tree in my barren locality and find that feeling of being suspended in time and space descending upon me. So I push myself up in resistance, take out the arsenic chicken roast from the oven, and we dig into it.

"What were you thinking about earlier?" asks he.

"why we exist" I respond, and we both know this is not the first time we have gone down this road. We've gone past the "you think too much".

"And what was your conclusion?" he asks me nevertheless.

I bite into the chicken, juicy, fat, pumped with steriods, savour it well before I say "Eat...

Fuck...

Pray."

The rest, I have decided, can rot on Facebook.

Or take that rocket to Mars.

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Nobody but a somebody - This is where I come from, for better or for worse

Friday, August 15, 2014



In a world today that increasingly disapproves of nationalistic sentiments, some of us still can't shake them off. Nationalism may be interpreted as a sense of superiority, but that's not what I'm referring to here, I am mostly referring to the sense of belonging and ownership, and for the lack of a better word, we'll stick to nationalism. I remember how some people thought me foolish to not grab the chance to 'upgrade' my passport while I had it, but I couldn't fathom it, still can't. The idea of giving up my Indian passport fills me with dread, it seems like I'd be surrendering my entire identity and masking it with another. My standard flippant reply is that if tomorrow there's a war, what am I gonna do? At the bare minimum, I want to be able to enter my country if I am not based there at the time. Sounds far-fetched, but it could happen who knows? Perhaps it's all the stories of the struggle for Independence that we grew up on, perhaps its the sense of pathos that the patriotic B&W movies stirred in us, or perhaps that it's simply the fear that you may never belong anywhere else.


I have seen a lot of the world and lived away from India for a fair number of years...and I've often thought that in another country even if you are a sanctioned somebody you are often just a nobody, it's not so easy to belong, but in your home country even if you are a nobody you are still a somebody. There is this sense of knowing your place. Having said that it's not like India or the Indian society is perfectly adapted to my way of thinking or I to it. People who know me urge me to leave India again, I've been told that this society will never accept my way of thinking or offer me the opportunities or support I need to realize my own aspirations. Indeed, often-times its stifling and I run away to escape from its impositions. It's great for a while when you travel in foreign countries, the feeling of rootlessness, the sense of anonymity in a large world - I revel in it, in the exhilaration. But travel long, stay away long enough, and you'll want to start feeling like a 'somebody' again, and then your steps will carry you back to where you came from. Your nation, your land, your - home. For better or for worse.



I know perhaps that my views are a little too simplistic, but I think patriotism and nationalism is actually a rather personal thing, it's less about the nation than it is about yourself, about your frame of reference. The debate could really get complicated, what if you don't agree with your country's political views or God forbid your country is a terrorist state? But then when I think about it further and try and figure out what it is that we are all latching on to,
I think it's not so much a notion of statehood or nationhood, but more that of 'myhood'. Humans have an inherent need to belong, to claim something for their own, for better or for worse. Your nation is your extended family, the land you were born is your bigger home. No matter how twisted the family, or how ramshackled your house may be, it's still yours right. It is where you grew up, it's that which has shaped you, and holds a part of you in it, and you carry a part of it in you. In a way, it's embedded in your DNA - for better or for worse. You can deny it and denounce it as much as you want, but it will remain the foundation of who you are. 

NRIs know that they are two types of NRIs - the ones who have emotionally severed ties from their country and whole-heartedly embraced another, and are better off for it. Then there are the ones who live on, with a hovering sense of waiting, like they are on a long extended stay. And they wait, yearning for little things that they can't shake off - silly things like sitting under a fan in a balmy room eating dal-chawal and papad, the dirty smell of Indian cities, the twinkle of dull gold studs on the ears of wrinkled old dadimas, the scent of rain-kissed Indian earth, the cries of vendors early in the morning, the chaos, the colours, and for me sometimes it was even the sense of cocooning under a big dupatta thrown over a salwar-kameez, protecting myself from the chill in the dawn air, while the exhaust from a revving up bus blows its warm air towards me. Silly things to define your sense of nationalism? No, they are just little things that represent your memories of what was uniquely yours - your culture, your family, your nation. 

For better or for worse.


Jai hind and Vande Mataram!
 
 


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All That Testosterone Makes You Walk Like A Camel - Phuduk, Phuduk, Phuduk!

Monday, April 14, 2014

I was always a boisterous tom-boyish kid growing up. HATED dolls, soft-toys didn't make no sense. Didn't understand the need for creams and such-like until after I turned sixteen. That silly barbie pink made me want to puke. More often than not I was fighting with the boys to let me play with them - cricket, marbles, football; scaling walls, trying to wrestle them after getting inspired watching Salmaan Khan in Maine Pyar Kiya. I loved to whistle, scream loud, cuss, and most of all I loved besting boys at stuff that was supposed to be "boys only". Still do - only that I am wiser to the not-so-mysterious male ego now, but, unfortunately if I say so myself, not any gentler.

I often fantasize that I am a warrior of the medieval times - hey still a female one han - roaring at some sweat-dripping, peck-shifting, big muscled, menacing oaf "COME ON ye filthy piece of pig shit, I dare ya, I dare ya to knock off this mighty sword off my wee hands, come on ye toad-sucking, rat-wheezing, knuckle-eyed low-tail weasel!!"

ROAAARRRRR

CHAARRGEEEE

ATTACKKKKKKKKK. SLASH! SLASH! SLASH!

"TAKE THAT YOU KNUCKLE-EYED LOW-TAIL WEASEL!!!"

Ahhh, that was so satisfying. No, no - no hidden feminist agendas here. Just giving outlet to some healthy testosterone thrumming through my blood. Ok, before YOU point out, let ME point out, that testosterone is not the pure claim of the male alone. Han, what? Oh is it? Oh...really? High levels of testosterone in women causes all that???  Ok ok, let's not get into it medically, let's talk about it metaphorically only okay?

Nobody has tried as hard to suppress my testosteronal attributes as much as my dear nani did and my very ladylike sister (still continues to). My favourite memories though, are of my nani.

Picture school summer holidays, picture all the time in the world to play, picture me in jeans and a t-shirt, a cap jammed on my head, boisteriously walking through the compound after a satisfying effort rolling granite boulders from one end of the rather large property to the other - I was creating a stone bench for myself in the garden. I am sweating, whistling... I come in bouncing through the back door, reach the hall, flop on the sofa, one leg stretched out, the other jiggling, I stretch loudly, with a "yiiaaaahhhhh" to loosen out the kinks. I resume my whistling, and then I look up. The whistling stops. The jiggling stops. Legs are trembling to clamp together. The cap is dying to get off my head and run away. Sweat is sweating in reaction. My breath is hitched in terror, as I stare into the grey damning eyes of my gradmom. CAUGHT.

Why was it so scary? Because..... girls from good khandaans do not:

  • Whistle
  • Curse
  • Sit with legs apart
  • Speak loudly
  • Laugh loudly
  • Wrestle with boys
  • Wear boyish clothes
  • Engage in activities reserved for males
  • Sing loudly
  • Dance publicly 
  • Refer to publicly unseen body parts by their correct terms
  • Refer to acts of publicly unseen body parts that cannot be referred to by their correct terms
  • Have animated discussions with boys who they are not related to. Actually talk to boys at all.

And so on and so forth...

And I had violated at least five of those rules. I looked into my nani's sagacious grey eyes, watched her take in the additional tan on the naturally tanned skin, foresaw the ("who will marry this girl" shake that would come soon),and waited for what would come next.

After an eternity in the damning hell, she spoke.... "all that boyish energy ...phuduk-phuduk-phuduk ... you walk like a camel!!!"




I was so stunned with what she said that I burst out laughing - LOUD. But oops! I clamped my palm over my mouth. "Girls from good khandaans DO NOT..." she started "... laugh so loudly", I finished for her with a chastised nod of my head.  She gave me a keen gaze and repeated, "girls from good khandaans ...do not. walk. like. camels."

Yes good girls do not walk like camels. It made logical sense, so I gave up my sneakers and graduated to three inch heels (because those were the only things that managed to keep my toes neatly pointy and not splayed out ungracefully), and started walking like ...a gazelle ... a beautiful...elegant ... very ladyish gazelle.

You WISH.

A CHICKEN. I started walking like a damn CHICKEN!!

Every time the heel met the ground, my neck wobbled out with a jerk - just like a CHICKEN.

The tragedy of it all I tell ya.

But that was still acceptable for girls from good khandaans, because hens are female, and that made logical sense. Right? Right, you get it right?

But every once in a while, the camel in me whistles his way out, while I stretch out my sleepy joints with a loud "yiaaaaaahhhhhhh", and reach out to pat his phudhuk phuduk hump. There, there my little warrior, there's my boy - who's your mommy, who's your mommy??

Now let's go bust some byzantenian ass!! ATTAAACCKKKKK!

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When Life Goes Meow A.K.A My Siberian Whiskers!

Friday, February 21, 2014

I have started to feel rather feline these days. No no, my pleasantly curvy body has not gone all sinuous and lithe. I still can't wear a jumpsuit without the expectation to top that with a sunflower head for my niece's school show. I imagine wriggling into a tight catsuit might take considerably more effort. Ever tried to stuff a pillow into a slightly shrunk pillow cover? Get the picture? :).

I am not feeling so arrrr sexy either.  No claws to show off. Rather quite the opposite. I've got (hic)... I've got (sniff) .... I've got (wail) ...whiskers. Yes yes, it's true. I've been caught on the catgunya, calaria, cat pox. Whatever you want to call it.

I've got (whispers) whiskers.

Kill me. Kill me already.

So what am I rambling about you ask me? You see there comes a time in life, when every person finds that innocuous strand of white in their hair. Some people are even born with that glint of grey.  I know people with liberal sprinkling of white in their twenties. My sister sprouted one when she was just a teenager. So by that standard mine was way overdue. So it should be no big deal. Really.

Or that's what I thought.

I have been ready for it, some day all the chemicals on the hair had to show their true colour right? But what I was not ready for one morning as I stared into the mirror was a wily little Siberian on....

My upper lip.

My upper lip.

My UPPER lip.

My moustache has gone white!!

I SCREAMED.


And I wish I had could have fainted, but unfortunately I do not possess such feminine abilities. I can scream yeah. But even my screams are masculine, more like a lion's roar. No wonder life decided to reward me with the distinguished mark of manlihood. All I could do is stare into the mirror and scrub away what I thought might be that stray piece of lint. Maybe the bristle from my toothbrush got stuck there?? It can happen you know, if you are sleepily brushing away. Ha, don't act all high and mighty now. Don't tell me your brush never once missed the mark and landed on your upper lip, your nose, or your chin? Aye, aye, Liars! But that's not what we are talking about.

Once I did resignedly accept the gift of white, I went down to my mom.
"You've got two sons now," I said.
"What are you on about?" she asked.
"I've got whiskers..." I whispered sadly, pointing to the quivering siberian, that eluded my tweezer. You see it's hard to pluck out something that's almost transparent. Professional expertise is required.

She laughed.

I cried.

I walked into the parlour, the dejected but brave war heroine. Parlour aunty points to the rare sight of pimples on my face, "what happened? Jawani chalak rahi hai?"
"No aunty," I responded, "jawani is far off now, seems like old age has caught up with me four decades too soon." She looked at me impatiently.
"My hair's gone white," I explain.
"So, what's the big deal?" she asks.
"It's that hair." I return
"NO NO NO, don't tell me-" she starts
"Mtch," I am not in the mood for down under jokes. "My upper lip," I point out sadly.

She laughed.

I sighed. One finger twirling the mark of my manlihood.

My Siberian whisker. 





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Aiyoo!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

If your woman isn't giving you enough Aiyos, trust me, she's faking it!

We are not so much about the idli-dosa as we are about the Aiyo. We, the South-Indians that is. Yes, we truly and most completely embody the stereotype. The Aiyo defines us, refines us, and reigns us. It is hard-wired in your baser instincts, it's your first emotion. Listen closely, there...can you hear the baby go aaaiii---oooo? And if you disagree, well you are in just plain denial my friends. There are many who try to hide the Aiyo under delicate Oops or exclamatory Shits, and I just wonder, why use so many adjectives when one expression says it all? The glory of Aiyoo lies in its simplicity and complexity, sometimes existing in both states. An Aiyoo can with just the slightest inflection of your voice perfectly articulate any emotion that you want, from disappointment, surprise, astonishment, sorrow, anger, warning, frustration, exasperation, and even joy! Just a slight tweak can transform your Aiyo from a dainty "oops" to a passionate "F**k!". It gives joy to the South-Indian identity, right up there with 'Amma' and yes her idli-dosas.

Despite its versatility I feel the Aiyo has not received its due. Come on, there are so many places the simple Aiyo could work wonders. Airport announcements, news bulletins, medical reports, and even ATM responses. Now I do have a grouse against South Indian programmers. There must be at least a million out there? And not one of them, not one of them thought of inserting the Aiyo into an error message? Come on, how simple and user-friendly that would be. "Aiyo, the system encountered an unexpected error and needs to shut down.", and instead of banging the computer, the user might be more inclined to just respond with his own Aiyoooo - albeit a lengthier one. Just think about it, "Aiyo, Windows cannot find the file that you searching for." "Aiyoo, you have exceeded the maximum number of tries." "Aiyoo, wrong password." and when you really can't think of an error message to come up with, a simple "Aiyoo!!" would work just as fine. And we might be far more sympathetic to the system or program and less inclined to fly into fits of rages. You can expect more of the Aiyo, paapa and fewer dislocated hard drives, and banged up keyboards.

We know that when the South Indian goes Aiyo, s/he is baring it all. No lies, no deceits - just straight from the heart. And men, I think the Aiyo is even more significant behind closed doors. If your woman isn't giving you enough Aiyos, trust me, she's faking it! silly A gentle Aiyo will tell you what you are doing wrong, so you can do it right. A whispered Aiy-ai-ai-oo will tell you that you are the king, so keep at it. But wait, let's backtrack, watch out for the Aiyo when you start disrobing for her - bad bad bad sign. My advice would be to button up tight and high-tail out of there. LEAVE before you end up disrobing completely and she shakes her head left and right and her simple Aiyo turns to a worried AIYAI-YAI-YAI-YOO.

And your only possible response could be to slap your head and go 'Aiyo, karma!'.

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My Mother is My Mother-in-law

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

.. or so they will have you believe. You know they? They-y? Like all other people who don't know you.

So lots has been written about the Indian girl who has crossed the golden matrimonial age of 25, but nowhere did my experienced seniors enlighten me on this additional phenomenon that surrounds her. But we will get to that in a bit.

The thing about moving about in traditional Indian garb (for me read Kurta, chudi, dupatta for the most part) is that it automatically offers an air of respectability to you with the vendors, their heads are bent reverently and no cheap cracks are forthcoming. So for the four years that I have pulled up outside my neighbourhood fruit vendor's stall, I have been greeted by the rather respectable "Bhabhi." For the first couple of years the instant response in my head was "Kiski bhabhi re?". Then as summers approached and I rolled in with big Gucci (like) sunglasses on my nose, I started to embrace it totally. Of course I was the Bhabhi. Bhabhi in my neighbourhood was good. I could do much worse than a modern Seth with a a gazillion businesses and Audis in the garage (that doesn't explain why his wife roams around in a modest Ford), but nevertheless, the pretense wasn't too bad. I never had to get out of my car, and I got duped on the prices because that was okay, because well I am 'Bhabhi' and I am loaded. The day I roll in with my niece (read my daughter), she gets special attention, and a free strawberry to carry back with her. "Your daughter is so sweet bhabhi,". "Of course," I respond. "I made her myself," only that her actual parents don't know about it.

The Bhabhi is something you just learn to embrace as the years move on, but hey I just can't wrap my head around the fact that random people now automatically assume that my mom is my mom-in-law and it doesn't even cross their mind that she could be my friendly mother. And when I do enlighten to the fact I am offered a silent big fat "O". And I react with a sweet smile that silently says "Yes, I understand your horror that I am a recently released murder convict."

I have read many posts about the signs you are approaching thirty and even about the experience of being single on the social networks, but here's what they don't tell you - it gets better after it gets worse. You know initially you are one of the cool ones, then your life becomes not so cool, cos friends get married and now they are no longer your friends but one part of the 'hot couple' that does cool things. They start hanging out with other hot couples and they are seen doing awesome stuff like sailing the Bahamas to bungee jumping in Aussie land. And for you, going out at the spur of the moment is not so easy anymore, cos well with couples it has to be 'plannnned'. Many male friends of mine, I have noticed, consider their newly acquired wives as PAs. They answer the phone, they approve appointments, and co-ordinate the meetings. "So how about a movie this saturday?" you ask, and PA answers "I'll have to check with Mr. President and let you know,". The same goes for female friends. "So how about a movie this saturday?" you ask, and friend answers "I'll have to check with Mr. Hubby and let you know,". And when you do meet up, you are subjected to a patronising "Better get married too you know, or you will end up...", their pained expressions say it all. You are riled at first, and then as more couples start forming, let the comments bounce off your back.

What happens next though is a nightmare. You mention this to some other single friends of yours, or worse yet, say something about it on Facebook. Stupid idiot that you are. Cos the next thing you know, the divorced ones who are all anti-men (not all, just some of them), and some still single ones who are still all anti-men, start claiming you as one of their own. "Who needs men and the pain, we are better off without them sistah!" hurtles out one cry, and the other goes "FEMINISM. Men are the enemy. Stay single. Stay free.". The cults try to lasso you, they try to pull you down deep into their crowd for initiation rites and your heart pounds in fear.

Run, Runnn!! Runnnn!!! And so you run, fearing for your very life. When you finally catch a breath huffing and puffing you wheeze "I love men man. I LOVE men. Call me an 'aunty' man, but not 'anti-men'. I love men."

So life goes on, in real life, as it does on Facebook, and you start to notice something new. The honeymoon is over for the hot & cool couples. Sizzling couple-lounging-in-the-pool photos are replaced by cute gurgling babies. Posts now start talking about parenthood and the first steps, and first words. The Mr. President no longer has his PA. He calls you - himself. "Hey, how about catching up this weekend ?". You say "Sure, I'll get in touch on Friday.". Order has been restored. You smile. The barometer on your posts has been touching the hot and cool extremes too. The same people who were worried about your singledom now gush "Ohhhh, I am so jealous, your life is so freeee....". You are riled in the beginning but then later start to embrace it as well, reinforcing the greenness of the grass on the other side.

Friday comes. You easy-breezy SMS your friend and pat comes the reply. "I'll check with Madam President and let you know."

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The Strangeness of It All

Monday, July 15, 2013

Yesterday, my cousins and I went to enjoy the Ramazan food festival in my neighbourhood.In the melee, I found myself wanting to capture photographs of the various sights at the stalls. But part of feeling the female Muslim and traditional Indian is wrapping your dupatta tight around yourself and shifting in closer to the females in your group, so that well, you don't end up squashed in a bearded and capped throng. Even if I did end up squashed, I was not too worried, because I was certain that the 'brothers' would find a way to guide the 'sister' to a safe place. Much like the brothers on Shaadi.com looking for a 'sister' to marry them! But regardless, I passed on the task to my cousin, the actual 'brother'. As I yelled out to him (very unladylike) to take a shot of "that thingy with the smoke spewing out where they are making that thingy'... a man close by found it absolutely hilarious, laughing aloud he proclaimed "That thingy is patthar ka ghost, those are people who have come all the way from Hyderabad to prepare it! Don't just call it 'that thingy'." And I laughed with him telling him I didn't know what was being made there. He took this as an invitation to join the family, walking up close to my cousin and laughing with him, helping him as he clicked the photo of the man in a Superman T-shirt manning a stall that read boisterously on its poster "Allah ka Karam hai, Biryani garam hai!". Some time later we had a kid volunteering to take a photo of us all, in fact - insisting upon it so that we could all be together in one frame. It had me wondering once again about something that's been nagging me for the last few months - how it's easier to be with strangers in today's times when somehow every relationship has become a task, a job.

For six months my family and I were caught up in an intense effort to keep my father from fading away from us, but you can't stop what is meant to be. During this time I was overwhelmed by the support shown by our family, but even more so by the kindness shown by strangers. I remember this man who stopped an already choked traffic by standing right in the middle of the road and spreading out his arms, just so that I could make that U-turn I was struggling to make to reach the hospital. The smallest of mercies and help in a time when every force in the universe seemed against us. When my dad needed blood, complete strangers came up to us with help, the response was so overwhelming, I was touched beyond words. But what will stay with me is the time when I stood outside the ICU, waiting for the doctors to release my father so we could take him back home for his final days. Before being shifted to the ICU, he had shared a room with another patient. I had not been too happy about the fact that we couldn't get a private room. It was hard enough to be dealing with our own trauma, but to have to encounter someone else's sickness was something I didn't want. So for the two days that we shared the room with the other patient, I studiously avoided any conversation with his attenders. I didn't even look up when they passed us by. But I did learn through the conversations that the man had the cancer of the gut, and doctor's discussions involved how they would create a passage for the food to pass his system. And while my dad's struggles were equally traumatic, I still couldn't imagine what the family must be going through. The last day that we shared the room was the last day that my dad was conscious, but completely delirious - rambling rather loudly. In his compromised state of mind, he started speaking in Tamil - not a word of which that I understood, and a girl came over from the other side, responding to him in Tamil and for a bit she put his mind at ease. I was immensely thankful, and managed to venture an apology for disturbing them, but she was kind and dismissed it.Three days later, I was waiting by the ICU when I saw a frail man being wheeled in post-op. It was the other patient from the room, I had never seen him before. His daughter trailed him. A little later, she spotted me and came over inquiring. I told her that we were taking my dad back, because it was over. She abruptly rushed away, but came back in a few minutes, tears streaming down her face. "I didn't want to cry in front of you." she said, squeezing my hand. "I am so sorry, but he was okay when I saw him last...,".

"Yeah, I responded. But he's not now. There's nothing more that can be done." and then she hugged me and wept. I had no space for tears and found myself distantly consoling her. "It's okay, it's better for him this way. He suffered a lot." But she wept harder, for me, for my pain, for my loss. Then I finally let go myself, and so I wept too, for her pain, for her loss that I knew was coming soon as well. And there we stood, amidst that crowd, two strangers weeping for each other. Shouldering a little bit of each other's burden. A little while later, I left to see the doctor. I did not see her again. I do not know her name.

After my father passed away, I discovered that while death is not easy upon the ones who experience it closely, it's harder for those who are distanced from it. People offered condolences in strange ways. One liner SMSes/facebook messages were the ones that boggled my mind. From close friends that too. Even more baffling were those who completely avoided the topic, pretending like it never happened. The absolute ridiculous stuff actually came from relatives. "What happened to you, why do you look so washed out?". All I could give in return was a tilt of my eyebrow that said it all "Did you forget that I just lost my father? How else am I expected to look?". Initially I just couldn't understand this, but then I realized that people just don't know how to react possibly or perhaps death itself is not as big an event as it seemed to me. Perhaps I had gotten it all wrong. Perhaps even courtesy is a fading phenomenon.I remember again, every single stranger who came forth to offer a hand and lend a shoulder. I remember again that girl who wept for me, when I couldn't weep for myself. I never expected that. What I did expect from some of my known ones ... well it never happened.

And so I really can't help but wonder, at the strangeness of it all.

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