This doesn’t happen often

Yesterday evening brought a strange feeling within me. I had just woken up from my afternoon slumber to remember that we didn’t have any food for the next day. That meant going out again and buying more junk to have a bowl of breakfast. The room was dark because it was almost 6.30PM and my roommate hadn’t bothered to switch the light on. The fan was whirring on top of us but that didn’t make much of a difference because I felt the stickiness on my body as I tossed and turned. The room was warm and the windows were shut. The door was ajar. I tried to get hold of my phone to check if I had any notifications. I had been waiting for an email to arrive but for the time being all I got was some SMS from BOX8, asking me to use my coupon.

I exhaled and the reminder to buy breakfast came back to prick. Typical breakfast for me when there is no college mainly comprises of one thing – instant noodles. It is absolute junk and highly unhealthy but it is cheap and it is food. The logic makes no sense whatsoever but it is breakfast, although it fails to qualify as one. I craned my neck to look over at my roommate. His face was illuminated by the light pinkish screen light from the laptop. He was living elsewhere, as usual. I turned back and stared at the ceiling. For the first time in quite some time I wanted to go home. Just throw everything and go home. I was tired of going through the whole cycle of buying Wai Wai everyday and filling myself with junk, whether it was in the canteen or the spiced up Biriyani. It all seemed unnecessary for me to go through all of this. For a split second I wondered if I should book a ticket and head home in May. Screw the internship and everything else; sometimes home food is all that matters. This was happening after a long time as I do not feel homesick every now and then. Perhaps, it was because life wasn’t hectic for a few days now. The mind wasn’t preoccupied with things to do and so it was occupying itself with things like this, which you thought about only when you’re staring at the ceiling without the lights.

As I felt my stomach grumbling, the thoughts shifted away and realization dawned upon me. I had to get food and that meant I had to go out and feed myself some junk, obviously. I decided to think practically, like we are always taught, and dismiss everything by repeating to myself that this is all part of the struggle. That, skipping a visit to home for a month will be fruitful in the long run, and that sometimes you have to just eat Wai Wai for days on end because we all compromise on things and prioritise accordingly. I decided to not think about it again and felt that getting some fresh air would help. I got up, dressed and went out to get some breakfast for the next day.

Mother called after an hour but everything was soon forgotten by then.

Family anecdotes (Pt. I)

I feel that I should write about my paternal grandmother. She is around 72 years old. Both me and my sister aren’t emotionally attached to her in any way. She is not like the grandmother that you hear stories about from your classmates. I somehow refuse to believe that she was emotionally connected to her children, to say the least. She is one of the most complex characters I have ever encountered within my family, a person who is undecipherable. Whenever we used to go to Jorhat, where our grandparents used to live, we rarely used to spend time with her. My grandfather was a jolly and cheerful person while she was always a hazy being who managed her time between the kitchen, doing chores and looking after the cows with whom she used to talk a lot. Human interaction was somewhat a rarity for her. Somehow, I feel that the cows understood her as well. She used to milk them and take care of their food. We never heard any stories from her nor any lullabies. She was a lady who always had a serious look on her face as she passed her days, rarely smiled or looked amused by anything. She was always old, as long as I can remember. She rarely went out of her house to go anywhere until and unless it was absolutely necessary.  She is a woman who never mingled with anyone in particular. I once asked my mother if she ever had any friends in her life and to my utter surprise she said yes. She told me of the time when she had a friend who was the polar opposite to her, who used to talk a lot with everyone while my grandmother used to stay quiet most of the time. It is a mystery to me as to how they got along with each other but I guess the friendship didn’t last long because we don’t know that friend’s whereabouts and nor has my grandma mentioned anything about her. This wasn’t surprising to me. My mom got to know this story from my father apparently.

My grandmother was superstitious and believed in magic and voodoo that other people could apparently do to harm someone. I am not sure how she feels about it now. My mother told me about this one time when someone got a dress for my sister when she was very young. At that time, my parents used to live in Jorhat. This relative got a red dress for my sister. After the relative left, my grandmother took the dress from my mom, poured some kerosene and turned it into ashes saying that it had black magic in it. No further explanation was given. I remember my mother saying to me that it was a very beautiful dress, something which caught her eye on the first sight. Many such instances have happened. She has ended up blaming the maid countless times for indigestion that occurs after eating something too spicy. All this sounds too bizarre for us but we cannot do much about it. She belongs from a different era and we can only nod in disdain.

Her life revolved in a monotonous cycle which she followed ever day. She never read anything, never sang, never went out, never showed excitement  over anything, and never showed happiness or any kind of expression of love towards anyone. She is cold and somewhat devoid of emotions. I do not know if she has the characteristics of an introvert. Maybe she has. But it became more profound after my grandfather died. She somehow made up her mind that she won’t do anything for the rest of her life except the basic human processes. She gave up cooking, interaction with people unless it is absolutely necessary and important or if someone is willing to interact with her. She left her home where she lived for around 60 years, left her cows without thinking twice, forever.

Kitchen in my house

P.S This piece was written as a creative writing assignment for college. The information shared is not fictional.

If the truth has to be told, I have seldom paid attention to what actually happens in our kitchen. I am talking about my home in Tezpur and not about Bangalore. But now, after getting this prompt, it has actually made me think. And while I write this, my mother’s picture comes back to my mind. Somehow I can see her inside the kitchen, doing the everyday cooking, as I visualize everything. My mother does all of the cooking in our house. Right from the morning cup of black tea to the evening dinner which always has rice and daal, among other things. If you ask me how the kitchen looks like then I will say that it looks like any other kitchen in every other house. I don’t think there is anything really special about it apart from the fact that life turns upside down if the kitchen is out of operation for even a single day.

As I write this, I remember how the kitchen gets really hot, especially during summers and how it becomes difficult to cook in it with all that heat emanating. I have seen my mother cook for relatives who used to visit us during my summer vacations. Relatives always meant more people and more dishes to be cooked and more energy to be spent. Humid summers didn’t help to that cause and I have seen my mother working inside that kitchen all alone while sweating. She used to keep the fan in the dining room on so that there was some air circulation but I guess, that didn’t help much either. We don’t have a fan inside the kitchen, if you were wondering. Surprisingly, the food always tasted good.

I have rarely helped my mother in the kitchen. The only thing in which I did my part a bit was chopping onions, capsicums and tomatoes. Sometimes, potatoes as well. I loved chopping all these vegetables. So, after I grew up, guests in the house meant I was there to cut these vegetables. Apart from that, I have helped my mother make pooris and stir the curries or vegetables in the karhai. And that’s about it. There has never been any kind of major contribution made by me. I never washed my utensils after eating nor did I ever even pick up the plate and put it inside the sink. As I write this and as I think about everything, I remember the countless times when I hadn’t helped my mother when she asked for it, out of sheer negligence and boredom.

I think my mother has spent a very large part of her life inside this kitchen of ours. She has devoted a lot of time to cooking. Mostly, for us. Sometimes, for others as well. Whenever I try to do something on repetition, it becomes mundane and irritating for me. It becomes uninteresting and you start asking yourself as to why on earth are you doing the same thing? Why should anyone just do the same thing over and over again? And as I write this, I think about how my mother has repeated the same task of cooking everyday for us, without questioning as to why on earth she is doing it and why only she has to do it. Her source of happiness and satisfaction lies in feeding her children and her family and she has been doing it for almost 30 years now. Perhaps, she thinks that doing this monotonous task everyday is the purpose of her existence. Perhaps, she also feels bored and irritated by it all. But last time when I went home, I saw that she was busy making my favorite chicken curry for me. With that same eagerness and smile on her face. And as I write this, I come to realize that kitchens hold so many things inside them. Things, which are silent and perhaps shrouded under a veil forever.

 

The many expressions of my father

My father is one of those people who has a nature which is nothing short of a puzzle. I haven’t been able to decipher that puzzle in all my 20 years of existence and I don’t think I ever will. Sometimes, it is difficult for me to understand what actually is going on inside his mind and the fact that he likes to keep certain things to himself makes the task even more difficult. Nevertheless, I have admired him for everything he is and for everything he has achieved in his life. His stature is a driving force which pushes me forward to stand up to him in all phases of life.

Simply put, my father is a person who has one central virtue governing his life, being practical. He has always been a no bullshit, no sloppy behavior kind of a person. He hates it when people behave like a wuss, he expects everyone to be active and energized. He goes for morning walks everyday at 5, need I say more? He searches for the essence of practicality in everything that he does; the clothes that he buys, the food that he eats, the money he spends upon himself (which he rarely does). He is short tempered, I guess that comes as a part and parcel in the persona that he has. He gets irked off at the smallest of things and approaching old age has increased this phenomenon. Nevertheless, he has a serious minded character and people who know him know well that bullshitting is not his thing. He probably isn’t the best person to have fun with and I feel that I have inherited some parts of all these traits from him. I can gauge the similarities which we have based on these small aspects that we share. His short tempered nature is something which I failed to inherit from him, something I am thankful about.

My father came from a very poor family. My grandfather worked as a junior engineer and earned a meager salary to support his family consisting of three children. My father had been quite meticulous in his studies and worked hard during his university years to get himself a job to support his family. He has told us stories of how he spent his college years having only two shirts and one terry cotton pant and how he had to borrow notes from his friends and teachers because books were something which could be afforded by only a few. All of this seems surreal now but that’s how his life was. His childhood consisted of fishing as his favorite pastime activity in the two huge ponds that we had in our ancestral home, indulging in farming activities, playing football with musk melons, eating mangoes and a wide variety of other fruits while lazing under the simmering sun. Not even close to how my childhood was.

But his hard work enabled him to have the pleasures of life. It has enabled us to have a decent life, a privileged life. When you think about it, you get a sense of how fortunate you are. And how grateful we should be for everything our parents do for us. Although my father has achieved a lot in his life, he has never hounded behind the pangs of luxury. Luxury is not a word that one would find in his dictionary. Living life contently with the basic, essential necessities is what he believes in. And he teaches us the same. We find it boring and shrug it off. After all, most of us crave for a luxurious life, filled to the brim with all the amenities this world has to provide. That’s the very purpose in everything we do, our education, the degrees that we obtain. Everything to have a life filled with fun, frolic and fancy Italian dinners every weekend. Isn’t that what we are? My father has never believed that.

The thing that my father isn’t a very orthodox or a conservative person makes me proud and happy. He isn’t one of those close minded people although he belongs to a generation which has many of those sorts. He has always supported us in all the decisions that we have taken in life, however bad they have turned out to be. He has always put our priorities first than everything else; he has always bought two or three pieces of clothing in an entire year; he has provided me and my sister the education which we have desired, never questioning any of it.

He might show signs of introversion sometimes, he might be a person who doesn’t have a lot of fun, he might be downright mundane as well but I think that all those traits turn pale in comparison to the things and virtues that I have learnt from him. I have adjusted to how he is as a person, I respect his persona and his behavior and I don’t flinch to point out at times when he is wrong. But still, he has given me a wonderful childhood, he has a big role in whatever I am now and I can never think of disappointing him. Maybe the puzzle in him will remain unsolved but I guess that is what makes each of us beautiful in our own way.

Petrichor

I belong from a small city situated in the north-eastern part of India. The place is good and also happens to be my hometown. I always get happy when it rains after a long gap. Because you get to experience the petrichor. There is something that makes ne utterly joyous with the heralding of the dark clouds. And so, after a long gap of maybe 3 months it rained yesterday. I was taking my afternoon siesta as usual after having my lunch. My mother was cleaning up the dishes when the next thing I know, it was pouring outside. My mother immediately rushed upstairs to the terrace to get the clothes, wouldn’t want them to get wet now would we, while I jumped from my bed and ran outside. The landscape had changed. The trees and plants around were starting to come to their natural colors after enduring the dust for months. It was nothing short of a blessing to them. Some of the cows that graze near our house were running helter skelter. They were quite confused as to where the rains suddenly came from. A few people were screaming to their family members to take the clothes inside. I was quite amused watching these turn of events. As I sat in the verandah I was feeling the petrichor seep within me. It was as if my lungs were vacuum cleaned. I had waited for this moment from the past 3 months. I saw a few birds flying by and looking up saw the clouds converging with a few rumbling of thunder in between. Yes, the rains had arrived and so did the sweet smell of the soil.

8th December