It’s about how hard you can get hit

Amma,

As one struggles with one’s sanity, one tries to deconstruct your life and find inspiration from it. I go through prescriptions and photographs to try to figure out the best way to save myself. I ain’t going down without a fight, for sure! These pictures were taken at your worst, I wonder who shot them and why? The first one was of course after the self immolation, the breasts and arm were burnt! I think it was Ashwini bhaiya, who operated upon you, in Kolmet. I remember for a long time ( was it for a year or two?) that you couldn’t wear a top because you were so itchy! The rest of course look like your Corex and medicine induced states. With Dustu’s cards asking you to stop downing that God forsaken cough syrup, I also found Dr Kothari’s prescriptions. I wish I could say, it’s very different from my shrink’s prescription! My mother…my self, haan!

They try to convince me and other people of course, that you were absolutely fine as long as everybody else was taking care of you and somehow murderous me, went and killed you! The shrink tells me, a pill will make the antisocial me, better, meaning nicer, I’m assuming. I’ll probably stop slam dunking people, if I just take some tablet. Miraculously, I will forget being accused of murdering you, ah even better murdering your son ( I keep thanking God I was with GD that night) of eloping, of everybody I know being called, of my love life being discussed as if it was something that was ongoing and even imaginary extra marital affairs being made up ( strategically, just so that I wouldn’t work in a particular area), of my work and my intelligence being mocked…of even my previous landlady in Kashmir being called up to discuss how I wasn’t making your relative a Director and probably it will be some Kashmiri boy….of being alienated…all of this as I was grappling with loosing you and trying to make sense of my existence. ‘ Let it be. Don’t think about it. How does it make a difference to your life?’ well wishers ask me.’ I would have, if it didn’t seem all too familiar and above all misogynistic to the freaking core of it!

So, instead of talking to people I keep to myself mostly, make sure no one knows who I meet ( otherwise they too will be called…of course the Wall and S are exceptions because the won’t flip sides) and if people do ungli, which they can’t help themselves from doing….I just return the favour. You know I’m too lazy to go on the offensive but people sometimes mistake me for you…they assume I have your tolerance level…But sau sanahar ki aur ek lauhar ki!I give it back and they get another round of ammunition. The mature thing to do would be to not react I know…ideally be like you…but If I’m going to go into to the Chakarvyuh and the exit has been blocked, I ain’t going down quietly, that’s for sure. Especially because someday this is going to be a lesson for my daughter- from your life she will learn perseverance and kindness but from mine, it will be this- In the worst of circumstances, even at your frailest moment…even if you have do it by yourself…we try to peg the patriarchy…win or loose…we fight irrespective of how powerful the opponent! We face our internal demons and hero up.

P. S- In case there’s any confusion, the term ‘peg the patriarchy’ isn’t being used here as a sexual term, it isn’t the same as a particular sexual act known as pegging. ‘ Matatas, who coined and trademarked this term, calls it a ‘ metaphor for ‘ subverting a system that requires subservience, within a gender binary !’

Her life gets me through some nights

A prescription from 1998. The earlier ones from Dr Kothari, I think, must have got misplaced when we moved homes.

Some nights I struggle, more than others and then the life of the woman, who bore me flashes through my semi sleep state. The ego reminds me to not become a foregone conclusion and these prescriptions save me from myself.

Though her official name was Deepika Kochar, all the prescriptions before I started taking her (much later) to the doctors were made in the name of Neera (which is her nick name). My aunt, who was a like a mother to my mum, used to take her to see the all the doctors, when we were little.

The suicide attempt after I was born should have been a red flag. Postmartem depression is a real thing. Each time I would ask my mum what brought it on, she would reply, ‘your grandfather went on a holiday and came back with gifts for his other grandchildren but nothing for you! I could bear how badly he treated me but I couldn’t take it when he treated you the same way!’ Needless to say, our relationship with our grandfather remained the same out entire lives, he never brought us anything or spoke much to us and though I will always regret not knowing my grandmother better, I have no such feelings for the one, who threw my mum out of the house. My parents moved into a rented apartment and that’s where my brother was born. A few years after my brother’s birth, there was another one. About the self immolation, all she would say, ‘ Your father and I were fighting and I was getting too agitated. I spilt perfume on myself and set myself on fire.’ I remember returning from a relative’s house and the help showing the nine year old me, my mother’s burnt clothes. ‘ Yeh dekh tumhari mummy ne kyaa kara!’

I grew up disliking my mother. The father, I adored till the first time, I saw him beating her and then went on to take out his frustrations on me. The only one who I considered home and family, growing up was my brother, much like the protagonist from Dear Zindagi. The mother was too different from everybody else for me to have any understanding of where she was coming from. People, didn’t make it easy either. Everybody those days, would talk about her- my father, his family, even her own family, up until her stroke. Though, I was always asked to take care of my brother and her, nobody told me that her behaviour was driven by her disease and that she required love. My own loneliness, my own struggles with my dark side, with my sexuality made me empathise with her, too late in life. But I think she lived as long as she did, inspite of all her attempts and illnesses because I was supposed to mend my relationship with her. That went on to help in saving me, from my own self.
Mum’s addiction to Corex went on for a long time. Every year, she would be hospitalised.
I hate when people blame my brother’s death for her depression and my father’s alcoholism. Though, it’s very convenient, it’s an absolute lie. It also mitigates, and disrespects all of my mother’s struggles with her own demons. My Ma, was born a fighter, if you ever saw her throwing a fit or in a hospital, scratching, biting and abusing two, three people at the same time (who were trying to hold her down) you would know, where I get my fighting spirit from. She was a terribly sensitive, sensuous, flawed woman who could only be controlled with love and was way ahead of her times. Though, being her child was never easy, it required for me to mother her, it was an absolute privilege knowing her. She is one of the rare people I know, who actually got better with age, less temperamental, more loving and truly apologetic for what she made us go through as kids. The only reason, I managed to forgive her is because she reciprocated my efforts with so much love, that the last few years of her life became her swan song, to me.

6 months

Amma,

Can’t believe it’s been almost six months since you left. SC misses you a lot, sometimes just the sight of something that you wore makes her sob uncontrollably but SB quickly shuts her down. ‘ Wait a while,’ she keeps telling her. For an hour a day she lets her out, when I go for a walk or exercise but SB keeps SC on a very tight leash. She can get all of us into a serous jam and get the system, spiralling out of control.

Though, right now, she’s out and nothing SB says will calm down her nerves. Your husband is a little unwell, has a cold and is slightly feverish and you know how panicky and anxious SC gets, always imagining the worst. Its unfortunate that the people who would do anything for me , are either not in this city or have elderly parents to take care off. I wouldn’t want to impose incase of an emergency. Hopefully, he should be up and about tomorrow but I am sleeping in the drawing room. I should have done that, on your last night, had I known it was your last!

Sometimes, when I feel like this, I do long for ‘my person’, someone I know for certain would be around without any conditions. But alas! unconditionality is an illusion, like love. The rest of the lovelies I know, have been cribbing about coming to the hospital to meet me when I was unwell, picking up flowers for your funeral and what not, you don’t want to know. Fills my heart with joy! What you taught us, we should do for strangers and we did, is apparently too much to do for friends.

That’s why this midnight disturbance. Otherwise, all in all, I look like I’m better, na? I’m sure the love of my life ( Dustu) and the light of my life (you) are having a ball. I worry less about him, since you’ve gone. What crazy stories we tell ourselves! Sometimes, I imagine you both are the stars that I look up at and smile. Makes it easier. In any case, who the hell knows where you are? Ahh, your son, the saint, of our house may have landed in heaven but you my darling, I doubt would have got an entry there! Your lovely escapades, would have landed you in trouble and you would be getting a rap for them. The last minute pandering you were doing to the Big Man, should have made me suspicious, you were about to split. So, stars in the sky is a better story! Your tat which the Wall is helping me with, is going to have a few stars, too.

So, talking about the Wall, on nights like these, I wish I would have listened to you. If I would have, he would have been sitting here, right now, holding my hand, telling me not to worry and I would have worried less. You were right, he is the most dependable man, I’ve ever met. No games, no drama, he always says what he means and means what he says. He knows about every man, every aspect, everything about my life, so no one can yank me around via him. No one can spring something on him, that he wouldn’t have heard. It’s a different story no one will dare to. You knew he was fiercely loyal because once you jokingly tried to crib about me to him and he very politely asked you not to. After that, you were floored! How much you insisted I should marry him! But I was busy waiting for love. What’s love got to do with it? Apparently, nothing!

You know my greatest fear about marriage is – that people will control me through my man. My life can’t be a repetition of yours, I keep telling myself, otherwise I too will be given electric shocks!!!! Use the ‘ good guy’ to keep the lady in check!. You know the drill, you experienced the whole drama, it’s not the man’s family, it’s your own people who do it. If the man will pander to them, they’ll switch sides in a second. He could be doing the worst things to you but he should listen to them and you’ll be the bad one! But this one is quietly fierce, very sharp and hard to manipulate.

Though, men are different, when you’re friends with them and very different otherwise. At the end of the day most of them end up marrying someone like their mothers. Do I behave like anyone’s mum? Amma, how can I? I’m a terrible mix of you two, coupled with shit loads of cynicism. So fleeting thoughts, tomorrow morning I will wake up and if your husband is alright, yet again, I will think, ‘ I don’t need nobody!’ Hopefully, he will be.

P.S- It’s a good thing that we have cameras in the house and I wear a Fitbit. It seems technology is my only counter, since conversations are out of the question! Thank God I have never chucked a single phone/ camera/ letter/ photo/ card in my life. This Truman show that they all seem to interested in, should at least have some grain of truth to it. I’ve decided, to deal with the grapevine, I should wear a go pro on my head all the time. Then at least I’ll have proof against their malice. Before I die, it can be be put up, with ‘ fuck you, assholes!’ as it’s caption. Just kidding! But on a serous note, this how much money, where, what time you do what etc etc makes me wonder what kind of upbringing most people had. I know I have a self deprecating humour and my flaws are out there, for everyone to see but at the end of the day, God and you know what I did. I just hope it’s enough for you, two. Thank God you were not ‘normal’. I find these normal people, to be quite a strange lot -conference calls, call recordings, call up people to get info, my God! How boring are their lives, that they are sooo interested in our’s?

Ma’s birthday

www.facebook.com/622330648/posts/10158891356450649/

How rapidly things change! Within fourteen years, one’s lost three family members. First Dustu, then Raahat, now Mom and one’s left with just the one, who is hell bent on drinking himself to death. The one whose left, said to me, today, he thinks I’m strong enough to take it. Apparently, my tongue fools everyone that I can take all of it, without cracking.

Strength! What is it? ‘ You’re so brave, so strong,’ SB hears this, all the time. ‘Sher aaya, Sher!’, the men in the house chant in unison as I walk down the stairs ( I ain’t making it up). SC looks at SB, quizzically, ‘Are they talking about US?’ ‘Yup, that’s because I’m in charge!’ she replies. ‘Why don’t you start playing the song from, Gully Boy, when I come downstairs?’ SB asks them, cheekily. The Sher notices the excessive drinking, that makes her the natural enemy.

SC retreats back in to her shell. After the events of the past month, she knows she’s too much like her mum, to be able to survive the world, in one piece. The other day, while chatting with an acquaintance at half twelve, she realised going forward, the dominant personality will have to be the more aggressive one. ‘You care too much about what people think about you!’ says the acquaintance. ‘ People have been talking about me, since I was nine! But I do feel terribly hurt when they choose your weakest moments to wag their tongues knowing fully well that you are vulnerable in that moment. Next time, I will expect it.’ she replies. There won’t be any ‘Et Tu Brute’, moments!

‘This is all your fault!’, SB tells SC. ‘Have you not learnt, anything?’ ‘I don’t want to be a machine like you, always analysing.’ snaps back SC, knowing fully well, it’s a long way home. She just wants her lah, lah, land…her spot on the side of the Boulevard, a tazbi in one hand, staring into nothingness, away from prying eyes. But at the moment paradise is too far away.