//

// I have come to realise that human touch is important. Being isolated for a long time messes up the psyche quite significantly. More than anything, you feel extremely bored and mundane. For the first few days, it feels quite peaceful to retract away from the general, everyday maddening crowd. But then, this retraction becomes sort of a permanent phase and that’s when you realise that this is not what you asked for. For me, periodical isolation is fine but a prolong state of that starts eating me up as you crave for some human company. Sure, I can immerse myself into all forms of technology and back-lit screens to fill the time up or work on writing a piece or get busy with some internship work but no matter how much you try to divert away from the fact that you actually want to hang out with your friends or just anyone for that matter and no one is actually available, all of your diversion methods become futile. Even the PC games that you love playing so much become unappealing. //

// My teacher told me to write about sounds that you hear in summer. The sound that I can mostly hear when it’s summer is the whirring of the fan above my head although I can hear it throughout the year. But I guess the sound matters more when it is summer. I also hear the sound of ACs when I walk in alleys or beside buildings from where the AC exhaust boxes jut out. The loud whirring sound is accompanied by occasional pouring of water from it. I used to hear the sound of the blowhorn of the Ice Cream vendor who came on a small three wheeler with a box attached to the rear side in the afternoons when I was back home in Tezpur, and how the kid in front of our house always threw tantrums whenever he came. I also remember how the Ice Cream vendor used to deliberately slow down in front of our house as a result. I remember how people sighed and moaned whenever there was a sudden power cut and the entire area was momentarily filled with darkness until some of the backup generators came on. But the world used to be so calm during that flash of a moment of total darkness. //

Family anecdotes (Pt. II)

She died when I was in 3rd standard so I didn’t get to spend much time with her properly. The only vague memories which I have about her are from two incidents. The first one is one from my cousin sister’s marriage and the second one is from her funeral. She was always sick. She had been sick since my mother was born, who was the sixth child in the family. My mother told me that she became ‘mad’ after her birth and that she was almost totally bed ridden all the time. She used to do the chores and scream and talk to herself. Things got even worse after my grandfather died when my mom was just 16 years old. It was an unexpected death; an accidental death caused due to an injection containing the wrong medication. He was the breadwinner of the house and his death nearly made the family homeless. They had to vacant the quarters they were living in. Hopefully, there were a few of my relatives who helped and supported them in getting a house for my mother and her siblings to live.

I remember my maternal grandmother as a short, frail lady with an expressionless face. She was somehow frowning all the time; about what I never knew. I do not remember her being amused by anything in the period of time I got to spend with her. She was toothless and she had a hunched back. Her eyes were devoid of any light and I don’t remember how she sounded like. I don’t remember her ever speaking to me. There is a group photo which we have from my cousin’s marriage where she is seen sitting on a chair, eyebrows furrowed and without any expression at all, while I am standing with my cousin and two other people but right now, I do not remember who they are. I was wearing a red t-shirt with cream coloured shorts and I am shielding the sunlight from my eyes. The photo was taken one afternoon in the month of June and if you look at the photo, you can see all of our faces gleaming with the sweat. Apart from this photo, I don’t remember anything about her from the wedding.

I remember the day my grandmother died. It was another sweltering day and I had no idea why me and my mom were travelling on a bus to Biswanath Chariali. This is my mother’s native place which was around 400 kilometres from Duliajan, where we lived back then. It was a tiring 8 hour journey on a yellow coloured bus and I remember feeling nauseated by the end of it. I do not remember if I puked but I do remember that I stepped on cow dung and decorated the entire bus floor with it. My mother and the conductor were annoyed and the latter was ranting about the mess I had made and the poor guy had to wash the entire floor when we stopped at a restaurant to have lunch.

I had no idea whatsoever that we were going for my grandmother’s funeral, that she was already dead and that my relatives were waiting for my mother to arrive so that she could have a last look at her. That was perhaps the first day when I saw my mother cry. And she was crying hysterically while I was too petrified to react. It was my first time seeing a dead body and seeing people grieving. I was unsure as to how I was expected to react over this. All my relatives appeared crestfallen and my maternal uncle was holding my mother while weeping silently. I went and stood near the gate and cried a little but I didn’t know why I did that. I didn’t even properly know the lady who died. Perhaps it was because my mother cried. My mother stopped crying after the body was taken away to be cremated while I asked one of my relatives for some water to drink. I don’t remember much as to what happened afterwards.

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.

An impetus for change

Yesterday, I witnessed a very interesting public event. I haven’t been to many political events or gatherings in my life; I have rarely attended political talks by ministers, student leaders and activists. But yesterday was different. My friend B told me a few days back that he would be coming to Bengaluru but he was unsure as to where the event would be held. We knew that he was coming yesterday though. Three people in class were quite excited about it. The rest of them had no idea that he was coming.

I forgot that the event was happening yesterday. Classes ended and I was walking towards the auditorium while reading Animal Farm. I was down to the last 20 pages and was impatient to finish it off for good. The day had already been filled with frenzy and I just wanted to sit somewhere and read until my friend’s classes ended. The phone buzzed and I heard my name being called at the same time. I turned around and saw B speed walking towards me, his phone on his ears. I checked the phone and saw him calling me. “Kanhaiya is giving a speech at Ulsoor. You wanna come?” “Really? Where?”  I asked back. “St. Aloysius College” he said. S was walking a few steps ahead of us and I thought I should ask her if she would want to tag along. She might be interested, I thought. “Wait, I will ask S and come back” I said to him and jogged towards S. S declined the invitation as she had to meet someone at 5, she said with a shy grin. The talk had already started at 3 and now it was close to 3.40PM. Without wasting another moment, we hopped on an auto, gave directions with the help of Google Maps and were on our way to see Kanhaiya Kumar.

Both of us were sure that this chance shouldn’t be missed. I was quite dejected when he didn’t show up for Bangalore Literature Fest last year, for which me and my friends waited the whole day till 5PM, hoping that he would show up. But he didn’t. Also, B told me that this event would be a good chance to get close to him and invite him for META 2017. I, for one, was quote charmed by Kanhaiya’s charisma and his oratory skills. It took me some time to understand what he was actually trying to do with the current political scenario in this country, what his point was and how he was trying to put sense into our minds; especially the youth. And, it was fascinating. Both of us were quite pumped up and B told me that AM asked him why he didn’t go for the event. It was almost evening and the streets were full of traffic. After encountering multiple red lights, we reached Ulsoor. I had never seen the Ulsoor Lake up close and it seemed like any other lake. The waters seemed clean and devoid of garbage. I didn’t pay much attention though. We stopped near the back gate of the college, adjacent to the playground. I saw a police bus and a few cops roaming nearby. They told us to go to the front gate, the one we had crossed seconds ago. We started jogging towards the gate which was a few yards away. We encountered more cops and they told us to go to the ‘front-front gate’. We decided to run this time because it was really getting late. Me and B laughed while we ran, our excitement running wild. We reached the front-front gate and I saw more cops and NCC cadets. We should our IDs and asked for directions. “3rd floor. Hurry up, it’s ending soon!” the guy at the gate said. We ran three flights of stairs and my legs were numb from running all that distance. I hadn’t run for around six months and my lungs were answering. We entered the auditorium huffing and puffing and there he was, standing on the podium, giving his speech. The place was filled with people, all of them seated on benches, a few cameras hovering around here and there. The first thing I heard him saying was how communism has been maligned by people in this country. “They think the communists are a nasty bunch. That they indulge in all kinds of bad activities, have group sex, and propagate antisocial views. This is a grave misunderstanding and it needs to change.” Me and B shared a quick smile at each other as people clapped and cheered along. I started looking around for familiar faces but I couldn’t find any. Spotting an empty bench instead, I went forward and sat down. I could feel my heart pounding from all that reckless running. My mother’s advices related to physical exercise started ringing on my mind. I realized that I should run more every now and then. I stared hard at the floor.

Kanhaiya went on talking about how the youth play a crucial role in changing the political structure of a country. How the youth has to take action instead of just being vote banks for the country. He talked about the skewed ideology of the RSS and how it has been metamorphosising this country based on nationalistic ideals.  “Nau jawan ko sarak pe utarna parega (The youth has to come out to the streets)” More cheering and applause followed. Someone from the audience raised a question, “Will Kanhaiya Kumar be the next Prime Minister?” More cheering and applause. “I don’t know that, I have no idea” was his reply with a smile. He was speaking in Hindi as well as in English. I had never seen him speak in English before on TV. He spoke slowly and composed himself well, that made you want to listen to him because it felt like he was directly speaking with you. The session was coming to an end when a guy much like me stood up and asked Kanhaiya to chant his ‘infamous’ anthem of Azadi. A sudden uproar emerged, a few people stood up, Kanhaiya slowly moved towards the mic. “Aap sabko bhi bhaag lena parega isme ab toh (Everyone has to take part in this with me)” More people stood up, including me. The guy sitting next to me continued to stare at his phone. I tried to lean and check out what he was doing but I was unable to figure it out. There was a lot of murmuring in the room by now. The chants of “Azadi!” boomed across the room as Kanhaiya went on, fist pumping high. All dynamic. All energetic.

It was motivating. I won’t deny that. The event ended and his personal group of bodyguards from AISF barricaded him as he came down from the dais and smiled and clicked photos with the crowd that was by now throwing themselves over him. Some shook hands and talked for a few seconds. The red t-shirt clad AISF men cleared the way as the pushed through. My friend B managed to get in and told him about our purpose and took a few selfies. I refrained from taking selfies as it’s not my thing, although I took a few pictures while he was speaking. People were waiting outside with motives of their own. I saw a few reporters as well. Kanhaiya was ushered inside a room with the college officials and a few special people who sat down and drank tea and took even more pictures and gifted him an executive diary with a calendar from the college. We meanwhile patiently waited outside. A guy poked me from behind and asked, “Which one of them is Kanhaiya?” “Uh, the one drinking tea. See! He just stood up” I said. “Oh! That’s him? Okay, thanks” He went off without saying anything more.

I counted two more police buses after we came out, along with three police jeeps. There were approximately one hundred policemen outside for his security. As he whizzed away in a grey Swift Dzire followed by his platoon of bodyguards, it didn’t take me long to realize how important this guy, who faced jail time for reasons everyone knows about, is and the impact he has managed to create among the masses. He is an impetus for change.

A universally acknowledged truth

It’s a truth, universally acknowledged that rains make us feel melancholic and oh so gloomy. There is something about the rains which take us back down the memory lane, maybe think about the times that passed by or the ones we loved and perhaps lost. It makes you pick up that pen and brush the dust off that cheap leather diary you got from your father four months ago. It makes you want to write poetry, to pour yourself out in the form of words so that you cease to drown under the ramblings that recuperate inside your mind. It makes you want to share all those feelings with someone, anyone, a piece of paper or with your laptop. I get the feeling to write about things when it rains, the memories of old become somehow fresh like the vibrant green and brown of the soil and the foliage. Inhaling the petrichor gives you a feeling of reliving those moments again. Looking up at the slow pace of those dark clouds remind you how all of it was temporary, and wasn’t actually meant to last forever. Why do I feel like this? I do not know but I am sure that I am not the only one.

It is another truth that rains bring along with them the feeling of lethargy. What wouldn’t I give to just lie under those sheets all day, with a mug of coffee and perhaps some good music or a book and think about life in general, until your mother’s voice reverberates through the entire house, reminding you that it is almost lunchtime and that your father is vehemently pissed off at you. Somehow, you begin to question about life right from the bed itself, why should I get up at all? Until your mother gives you another warning. My parents have always been early risers and thus they expect their children to do the same and both of us (me and my sister) have left no stone unturned to make them feel disappointed regarding this.

Sometimes I think about why the rains make us feel gloomy and lethargic, why this particular weather? Is it because of the tendency in us to have a negative affinity to things that are grey i.e. the clouds and the atmosphere or is it because everything seems unreasonably calm on a rainy day which is somehow in contrast to the chaos we are so used to? Is it because we long for that chaos so much that its absence becomes difficult to accept? A lot of questions but very few answers.

Rainy days are also about samosas and pakoras! Evening tea with pakoras that my father gets from that shop bearing my mother’s name at Tribeni Circle is something that makes that evening special. On other days, my mom detests the samosas and it’s me who usually ends up eating her part. I can safely conclude that rainy days create a certain affinity between my mother and the samosa on the plate. And because of that, on rainy days, father smiles a little more.

Rainy days are also about muddy roads, spoiled sneakers, wet clothes, splashes from potholes as a vehicle passes by, tea from a roadside shop mixed with rainwater, clothes on the clothesline hanging for days, misty windows, cool breezes, that cat who is nowhere to be seen, empty park benches and colourful raincoats. Rainy days are a mixed bag, sometimes a joy for many and sometimes a hopeless despair.

I, for one, always waited in vain to see a rainbow.

 

 

 

 

 

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.