My friend Romangst and her husband argue about bedcovers. She says using a bedcover is a way to ensure that the bed doesn't get dusty and so when they are ready to sleep, they can lie on a clean bed. He says - "So when we remove the bed cover and lie down, we are exposed to dust. So it's ok by you if we get covered in dust but it's not okay for the BED to get dusty?"
My friend KK compulsively buys postcards that he never sends to anyone. On occasion, he tapes a few of them up onto his bedroom walls.
I said - "What happens to the rest?"
He said - "Most of them never make it up there. They lie in the blackhole of postcards, in a drawer in my bedroom. I buy postcards and banish them to the blackhole."
Today I suddenly remembered how one Sunday, more than 2 decades ago, my dad and I drove down to Nirula's for sweet lime soda with ice cream.
It was a hot summer evening, I was hanging out in the house, not doing anything particular. I think Dad was craving this particular ice cream soda. Because he just came up to me out of the blue and said - "Oof do you want to go out for sweet lime soda with ice cream?" I was very young at that time, young enough to NOT know what an ice cream SODA is but young enough to know exactly what ice cream is, hear its name and feel excited. So I said to my Dad, "Yes." And then he said, "Get ready, let's go."
So I did, and we sat in the car and off we went.
The drive was long. Super long. Because when I was small, Nirula's always seemed like the farthest away place on Earth.
When we reached, it was packed. Sunday crowd. Dad got his own soda, and got me a separate one. My sharpest memories of this evening are that of sticky green goo. I didn't finish my soda. I loved the ice cream but the soda kind of ruined the fun for me. I remember Dad teaching me how to just scoop out the ice cream from the glass and eat that alone.
Dad had his soda and I think he finished mine as well. I can't remember. What I do remember is that I have been skeptical of lime ice cream sodas ever since that day.
Now that I have written about that evening, I find all my memories of Dad are coming rushing back to me.
How everytime he wanted to fill petrol in his car, he would ask me if I wanted to come along for the drive. I would go, roll down the window at the pump and just smell in the petrol. Bliss. How we used to always go for night walks together. So many night walks. Silent walks, we never used to say a word to each other. Long, long walks.
How when I slipped down the stairs one morning while carrying a bucket of water, Dad insisted on driving me to college instead of having me take the auto rickshaw. How when I injured my arm with a golf elbow, Dad used to diligently drive me to the physiotherapist every single day and wait until my session was over and then drive me back home. Sigh.
I don't allow myself to get emotional when I think about my Dad. But today seems to be one of those rare days. My cheeks feel wet now, and I'm too scared to examine my emotions too closely.
So many things have changed between those days and how my life is right now. And so many things have changed for Dad.
I think he's lonely now. I don't know if he's given up on life, may be he has.
I just felt like writing this all down because I wanted to remember the Dad I used to know.
Last night I was at the nephrologist’s clinic and it struck
me how different the atmosphere was from when we visit the oncologist.
Cancer is noisy the way renal failure is silent.
Go up to someone, tell them the word cancer. Watch them panic.
Now go up to this person again, and say renal failure. Watch them give you a
curious or confused look. Now try saying dialysis. Watch their expression
again. Just watch.
At the oncologist’s office, it is never quiet. Outpatient departments are
noisy. Go on, spend a day at one. You’ll know what I mean.
Cancer day care centres can be the noisiest places in the world. Patients talk
to each other. Relatives talk to each other. People just strike up random
At a hemodialysis centre, people pray. I’m not kidding. They pray. It is quiet.
It is crowded but it is quiet. Nobody is really talking to anyone else,
although sometimes families that come in together talk amongst themselves. Mine
doesn’t. We just sit. Lots of other people just sit as well. Sit. Stare into
space. Meet the doctor. Go back home.
At the nephrologist’s clinic, I played Guess The Patient with myself. People on
dialysis aren’t automatically bald, the way people on chemotherapy are. So you
would think this is a more challenging game to play.
The thing is, I am incredibly good at Guess The Patient, and I suspect everyone
at the nephrologist’s clinic is good at this game as well.
I can tell who is on dialysis by the way they walk. Yes. Their WALK tells me.
Maybe the difference is that with chemotherapy
you have a plan. Your doctor decides how many cycles of chemotherapy you need;
you go through them. You either make it out alive or you don’t. There is a
time-frame to this madness, it is definite, and usually, you have a clear idea
about how it is going to end. Words and stress collapse into one another and
people talk. You can hear the sound of the tension, it is tight, it is rough,
it is bursting at the seams, and there is noise.
With dialysis, you float and breathe. There is hope and there isn’t hope.
Dialysis keeps you alive, as long as your kidneys can last. Maybe just a few
hours more or just a day more. Or maybe a year. Maybe twenty years. Everything
I don’t know how this will end, neither do you.
So you reconcile, sit tight and wonder.
Silence is that special space in your head where you imagine the worst and you
imagine the best and you sit and watch wide eyed when the two meet and kiss.
I just want to tell you all that it has been a really, really long time since I
have seen anyone using the word “baby” on a real baby.
Who is a real baby? A real baby is a small size lift-able
human who is under the age of 2.
Interestingly enough, all babies these days are adults. Grown adults use this
term on each other all the time. Lovers call each other baby. Sometimes if you
are being hit on by someone, they may call you baby. Or if you are hitting on
them you may call them baby. Friends call each other baby, just for the heck of
it. Parents call their teenaged kids baby. Sometimes they call their full grown
adult offspring baby as well.
Sometimes humans under the age of 2 get referred to as
“infants.” This, fans and avid readers, is an academic term, used by airlines
and hospitals in their terms and conditions literature. And parents otherwise
tend to refer to their offspring under the age of 2 as “my child” or “my son”
or “my daughter.” But baby? Naaaaaaah.
winter, you can’t tell a cancer patient from someone who does not have cancer. Especially
if you live in a metropolitan city where monkey caps are equal to fashion
statements. Every single year. Year after year.
Also, if you are a man on chemotherapy, in all likelihood, it is going to be
impossible to tell you apart from a bald man who is not on chemotherapy.
Regardless of the season.
But maybe not regardless of your religion. Maybe then you have the same
experience as women.
Because it isn’t the same for women.
Or is it?
What if you are a woman who covers her hair because of religious
reasons? If you lost your hair, would you still cover your head? Then would you
be covering your hair or the fact that you don’t have any?
I realised that my grandfather and his friends ALWAYS call each other by their last names. You would think this would sound like Khanna or Soni or Verma. You know, how boys do it. Of course you know it.
Except with these old men, it's not like this. It's always, Khanna Sahab, or Mr. Soni or Verma ji.
Like, "Namaste Verma ji." Or "Good morning Khanna Sahab" or "Yesterday I met my friend Mr. Soni." All the time. Yes, ALL the time.
They're great friends, all of them, and I'm wondering how they keep a straight face through this all.
"Use the word juxtapose. For example if you are looking at a painting of a horse say - I love how the colours of the horse are juxtaposed against the background of the field. Or if you are looking at modern art, just say - I love how the hues of this painting are juxtaposed against each other on the canvass." -- Abir
Last week at the chemotherapy day care centre, there was a monk who had come in for treatment.
You can retreat from this material world, you can give up breathing its toxins.
You can live a stress free lifestyle, you can meditate. You can pray.
Makes you realise the true extent of the random nature of this universe. Makes you realise that even if you control your mind, even if you control your emotions, there is very little else that you can control.
And sometimes, a life of prayer can control nothing at all.
Yesterday, I saw the little boy again at the chemotherapy day care centre. He was there again with his father, who sat facing him and didn't say a word.
I tried not to stare at them. I distracted myself with tea and a magazine. But tea and magazines are no match for a seven year old on chemotherapy.
When I sneaked a glance in their direction again, I noticed that the little boy had disappeared for a bathroom break. His father remained seated in the chair, staring off into space. Then I saw the little boy return. I saw him come up to his father's chair from behind. I saw him put his small arms around his father's shoulders. I saw him squeeze his father in a hug. **************
Little boy, you inspire me so much. You make me feel curious. You make me feel amazed. You make me feel happiness and sadness and hope and madness all at once. You make me want to walk up to you, you make me want to talk to you, you make me want to be your friend.
Young heterosexual couples in heat are fascinating to watch on metro rides. The perfect place to build sexual tension is the thin fine line between the ladies compartment and the rest of the train. Girl stands on ladies' side. Guy stands on the other side. They look into each others eyes. Their fingertips brush. They dare to bridge the distance between themselves by reaching out and holding hands.
They don't kiss, obviously, because kissing is against Indian Culture.
Thankfully, now, we have a word for this phenomenon.