Strength

When the fear of, “Will he stay” went off

Her anxiety left her too

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Bread Samosa

I was on a vacation in Hong Kong. We had spent the day walking. It was a very good and satisfying day. It was so good, that I had found my old appetite rumbling in my stomach. And that appetite brought this strong craving on my tongue: a strong want to eat India Chat. I had traveled down from India to explore this place, and yet this thing in me wanted to eat desi street food. But, I kept mum. Thinking this isn’t what he would like to eat. And yet, this man, to my great surprise and happiness asked, “Would you like to eat dahi puri?” I was wondering if he could read my brain waves.

There in Hong Kong, when we were eating the dahi puris with some addition of samosa chat, I got hit by this strong wave of nostalgia:

I would wait eagerly for my parents to come back home from work. I would be in the garden with my pupper. Waiting for them to walk inside the green gate, just to run close to whoever comes home first and ask, “Can we have bread samosa for dinner?” The day we would have it was like a picnic at home, but at night. Would be noisy, cosy and fun. Like some kind of celebration. The walk with my father to the shop to buy fresh out of wok samosas. Holding his fingers. Walk back home to eagerly eat the hot samosas, flattened and pressed firmly between two breads. And the satisfaction once the first bite was savoured…

I missed it.

Then today happened. We were out, my father, sister and my niece. While each ran their errand, I entered a small shop. One place which came close to making samosas like the samosa shop in the place I grew up. And I had the question in my head again. I turned around to find that my father had followed me in the shop with his cup of coffee. I asked the same question, “Can we have bread samosa for dinner?”

He smiled. Maybe the nostalgia had hit him too. And he answered saying he was just going to ask if he should get some bread for the night.

It was a celebration again. This time it was for my new job. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate.

Somehow, the mood was better. Like we had grip on something and that it wasn’t lost. I saw the old me. The old, easy bond I had with my father came back. He was happy. Genuinely happy. Happy to do this. Let his grown up be a child.

We were excited.

My mother was excited when I told her. It made me happy. Somehow the atmosphere felt familiar. It was warm, cosy and celebratory again. Though it was disastrous: the samosas were too spicy for our taste, yet it was the emotions that mattered.

It was about the simple pleasures. Most of the time works like a charm.

Paranoia

A walk after dinner. The streets, strongly lit by neon and colourful lights, was beginning to slowly fill in with strangers. Her mind reeled. Thoughts raced past the reality: Strangers. Proximity breaches. Small bumps. Accidental touches. Loud noise. Disgusted looks over her appearance. Eyes over her flaws. Space, lack of space.

STOP!

One quick heartbeat. “Was it because of the climb?” she wondered.

Then there was the second heartbeat. Followed by third. Succession of rapid thuds. Hands on her chest, she tried to hold it back. Rubbing her fists in small circles over her heart, silently asking the red thing to slow down.

Breathe!

He looked at her.  “Are you ok?” he asked.

Silence. A nod.

They kept walking towards the brightly lit street.

The easy, comfortable silence between them let her mind wander. Her thoughts raced again: His disappointment when she says no. The decline of interest. The need to search for interesting communication for the lack of hers. Questions. Multiple questions. “Why is he with me? Would he rather spend time with someone else? Would he rather talk to strangers than watch me struggle vibrate my vocal chords?” Lack of knowledge. Lack of interest in common topics. Ignorance in politics. Ignorance in music. Ignorance in movies. Ignorance. Lowering self-esteem. Feeling ordinary. Wondering if he is there next to her out of obligation of friendship. Repeated nos. Repeated denials to him to do that one thing he wants to do together. Unable to fit in, again. Frustration. Questioning the very existing thread of friendship. “Why friends with me?”

STOP!

BREATHE!

Eyes closed. Fear gnawed at her hesitant heart.  She agreed to do it with him. She walked next to him in the middle of the street.

Mouth sealed. Words dead in her throat before they materialized. Discomfort ignored. Her sense and soul as empty as the emotions of the city.

Wild mess of paranoia threatened to burst out of the vein in her head.

Deep breathes. Control. Pause.

She walked on next to him, as he looked into his phone.

For acceptance.

For love.

The Face in the Mirror

One dark room. Faint shimmer of white light falls in the room. Bright enough to make out the faint silhouette of the things in the room. At the left corner, there is a mirror hanging on the wall.

I stood in front of that mirror, in the almost darkness. I could see my silhouette. My hair. The faint shape of my face. I could see it. But, I couldn’t see my eyes, my lips or anything that defined my face.

Blank.

Have you ever stood in front of a mirror like that and wondered when all your features are wiped clean, what would be your identity? Would a description of ‘what makes you’ by a trusted friend satisfy you? Would the shape of your eyes or the plumpness of your lips define you?

I found myself standing in front of the dark mirror longer than I should. Trying to squint my eyes and see if I can still see something. Maybe a ghostly shape? At least a faint sketch of my eyes.

Nothing.

I wondered, why did it matter so much?

Then I asked myself, “Who is she?”

The defined face in the light or the silhouette trying to discover and define herself in the dark?

I walked away with no answer.

The uncertainty still remains. And I’m learning to be ok with not knowing right away.

The Friend Who Cared

He had met with an accident recently. He had hit his head. It was so severe that he had no recollection, not even of the accident. A month’s worth of memories was blank to him.

I had met him at my workplace. I liked his simplicity and naivety, his innocent approach to the world and the strong hope he bore and carried in his heart about humanity and his trust in them. It was refreshing to see it and let hope take birth in me: A sense of wanting to trust.

His head injury had taken a toll on him. I couldn’t meet him. Rather, I didn’t want to meet him. I wasn’t sure I could see any human in that state.

Then, one day he messaged. A wonderful surprise. I didn’t think he even had the mindshare to tell me his story of what happened that fateful evening. But he did. Ugly truth and all. He opened up, kept his heart out on the table and bared it all. I was at loss of words.

He messaged me again today. To tell me his success towards recovery. Mentality, emotionally and physically. He even told me he is catching his fears by its horns and marching forward. He’s taking his time, but there he was. Ready.

Now, we aren’t close friends. We are just friends. Who smile, wave and wish each other at work. Maybe have small talks now and then. But not close enough to have this conversation. If I were in his place I would have thought millions and millions of times before I wrote an open heart message. When he told about himself, he sounded a bit like me. Yet, he did take this step, which I wouldn’t.

One would wonder, “Why the heck is he telling me this?”

Some would think, “Wow. This man is strong.”

Some would genuinely wish him well.

Some wouldn’t give two hoots about it.

Yet, he got out of his comfort zone and he shared. All his vulnerability exposed. I know the effort and courage he would have mustered.

He was that friend who cared enough to share. Cared enough not to care what me or others would think of his message.

He cared enough to trust me and share a part of his life with me.

Tough Decisions

One fine Sunday morning, when I was making French Toast for my father, I wondered – What am I doing with my life? Is my decision the right one? Did I make the correct move to accept a job that would shake my life?

And then, I heard my 2 year old niece talk to her mother. She had trouble making her own decisions. She wondered out loud with her mom – Should I wear the blue underwear with Lola on it or the red underwear with a yellow teddy on it?

Tough decisions.

Simpler times. I wish I can go back to making such decisions.

Yet, I love our lives.

Truth Behind that Lie

She kept speaking to his namesake. Calling out his name when speaking with the namesake, to taste the missing flavour on her tongue. Hesitant to pick up the call and end the silence. But when the silence ended, he missed hearing her sigh of relief. Of being able to call him out without using the namesake as a reason.

Yet, their friendship grew stronger after survived this storm.

That Happy Place

It was a big hunt, to find that one place of solace where I could find eternal peace. A place I can always run to everytime I felt down.

I first thought a beach called Thiruvanmiyur in Chennai. A place to let lose all the frustration with the strong night beachy breeze. I could see the stars twinkling if the weather was clear.

Then I moved.

It became impossible to touch those silky sands again and feel them slip between my toe. It became impossible to want to hear the waves at my whim and desire. I missed it.

I was in search again.

Then I was in Ha Long Bay. A visit. With people I liked being around. There was this boat ride. Being in middle of vast water body. Feeling peaceful in the midst of small islets. Sitting on the top of a big boat. Listening to the wind blow. Feeling tiny in midst of this huge, beautiful nature. Enjoying the silence I longed for. Leaving my sadness bit by bit. Because it could take it. Peaceful.

Then the trip came to an end.

I couldn’t travel across countries just to feel the serenity at my whim. It didn’t stay with me.

The search continued.

The next place was relatively closer. It was 3 hours drive away from the city. It was a lake in midst of a small city. It is called Kukkarahalli lake. A 4 kilometres stretch. A peaceful walk early in the morning. Walking around the water body which is surrounded by lushness. People co existing in peace. Doing their own thing. I had found a small corner in the middle of the stretch. A series of mini stairs which attempted to take me closer to the water. I could sit there, forever. Look at the calm water. Silent. Graceful. Emanating some strong positive energy. Making me feel refreshed. Renewed.

I had to return to the concrete jungle. Earn my livelihood. It wasn’t closer, again

The search continued.

When the heart is exhausted, relieved, in turmoil, the magnanimity of simple things stand out.

I had found my happy place at last. It was and is right here with me in my home. I discovered it while watching Charlie and Lola with my 2 year old niece. Her favourite cartoon currently. She either sits on me or next to me with her head leaning on my shoulder. Today, she sat on my lap resting her legs on my pillow. Her head resting on my chest. Snugly wrapped around in my arms as she sucked her thumb while she watched Lola create Lola land.

The search had ended.

There it was, everything and more than before. Right in my arms. Every single day.

My Happy Place in the world.

Over The Edge

They were thick friends. Almost inseparable. Even the distance couldn’t keep them apart. They made memories, every single day, even if it was over the phone. They were that sticky, close, inseparable friends.

One day, unknown to her knowledge, he was pushed at the edge of the cliff. He stood there, silently, feeling the gravity pull on to his center. He closed his eyes, feeling the breeze gently push him closer to the edge. He swayed, but he had held on to his balance.

She was his last piece of silky silver thread that he could hold on to and pull himself out of the abyss, if he happened to tip over.

So, his mother sent him away to her. Maybe spending a week with her would help him clear his head, his mother thought. She sent him away to be her, with huge hope nursing in her heart. She wanted her son back. Badly.

Next day, there he was at the airport, reluctantly embracing her in a lose hug. She was disappointed with the lack of his usual enthusiasm. She shrugged it off and pulled him in a cab to take him home.

She tried to get him to talk. But he now preferred long silences.

She wanted to help, but she didn’t know what that worm was that was slowly digging into his brain. She only knew he wanted to talk but couldn’t find the right words.

Her patience was running thin.

She was only 24. She didn’t understand the mighty darkness that he was enveloped into. She prided herself into being practical. She prided herself into believing that everything about her was in the proper place.

She didn’t understand his inability to get out of bed or go for the long walks that they once enjoyed doing together.

He had crawled tighter in his shell. Lost to her, forever.

She failed. The guilt was beginning to build in her. It stayed inside. Suppressed. Closed.

She assumed the air of being practical and fair. He needed to hear the truth. He needed to be shaken out of his numbing tune. But he was gone. Lost in his music. And she pretended to move on as the silence between then grew. It ate into her. Her eyes had grown old.

Time passed into months.

She believed it was love. The idea of love was enticing. She was pulled into it. Dragged to make a decision. A rash one that too. She was encouraged to take it. She was also warned against it. Mostly, she was warned about the reckless risk she was jumping in. It was impulsive. She did it anyway. She thought, “Fuck this shit. I don’t want to look back in regret.”

But she did. She had lost.

It didn’t matter who looked down on her. It mattered when her mother like figure looked down on her. She wasn’t angry. She didn’t reprimand. She just was disappointed.

Hell broke loose.

She was pushed in silence. Her eyes closed. Her mind closed. A wall was built around.

A plea for help was denied.

The pile of guilt and shame kept getting bigger.

She could no longer pretend. There was lengthy silence. Panic attacks in the middle of the road. A mind that was slipping away in darkness.

In midst of this, there was a failed marriage. Battle of ego and pride. Sanctity of relationship was lost. Belief was shattered. Ideology was broken. Her last source of comfort had slipped from her hand.

Panic attacks got worse.

She went down to see him. She had lost him. He was there near her, but not with her. It felt like her heart was socked hard.

Guilt.

Went back to routine.

She was living with constant panic attacks. They owned her.

A doctor treated her without meeting her. Thrusted 12 small pills in her hands. Advised her to take one every night. It will help you sleep, he said. It will help you breathe easy, he said. But it would only numb her muscles and her senses.

Things felt bleak. She didn’t know where she was anymore. Where her mind was wandering, she didn’t know. She grew fragile. Fragile enough to let a stranger’s taunt get to her.

She found herself standing in front of her own abyss. But there was a friend, who had touched her shoulder, and unwitting asked her to stay back. It was a faint, muffled sound. But she heard it and took a step back.

She had reached out to her phone, thinking of giving him a call. She typed his name and then locked her phone. She couldn’t give him a call. Someone, whom she could reach out to at any time of the day or night. She needed to speak but the words were stuck in her belly.

Her mind was losing its strength to hold on.

Panic attacks came with added wandering thoughts. Scary thoughts. Thoughts that gave her ideas. Made her believe in disillusion. Pushed her. She was close to touching insanity.

She was tipped over the edge.

She stood over the end of the abyss ready to make her final lunge.

But before that, she had to speak with him. She had to reach out to him. She had heard he was doing well now.

She plucked her courage and spoke to him. She spoke about how vain she was. She spoke about how she had failed with him. She spoke how the pressure had buckled her down. She spoke about her guilt of not being able to help him. Of all the guilt that had eaten her away. The unspoken love. Trying to me up for the lost time. It had only taken her 3 years.

She felt lighter after speaking with him. With every tear flowing down her cheeks, she felt her chest getting lighter. The pile of guilt seemed to slowly disappear.

It felt like she was getting her business in place before the deed was done. With this thought, she went to bed.

A rested sleep after a long while.

The next morning, it was worth being alive.

The Time I Survived

Yesterday, I felt my end was near.

There was a sharp, shooting pain that took birth from my ear till my chest. Numbing my face, making it difficult to speak. 

Fear rose in my chest, leaving the tiny red beast within the confines of my rib cage in a tizzy. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Yet, I could feel it. My end was near. 

There was a serene acceptance. Almost embracing the fate that seemed sealed within the confines of my mind.  

I wondered if you would remember me. I wondered if you will look at my typed out words, resting in your phone and feel loved. I wondered, if my words would help you feel cherished. I wondered if you could finally feel me next to you.

The day sailed by, without any physical incident to the little red beast. It was still beating. By night, it slept restlessly. 

Then there was dawn. 

I had survived.

But my words still hung on in your phone with a silent hope in my being that those words would still have an effect on you, which I cannot define.