Thursday, November 29, 2012

Judge Me

So, you think you know where I am coming from. You label me. You don’t say it aloud, you don’t have to. The implied can speak volumes.

I am far from being non-judgmental too. I try not to be, and it takes a lot of effort to come out of my own confined perspective, step out of the sidewalk, march onto the other side and know what it is actually like to be someone else. It’s tedious, but worth it. Opinions are created in a jiffy. I like you. I don’t like you. Opinions are based on others' opinions. Why bother to know for yourself? Who has the time?

When I was posted as an intern at the Nephrology Department, I was overworked and constantly irritated. A 40 year old man who was admitted for dialysis. Every morning, after the clinical rounds, he tried to tell me about his life, his job as a school teacher, his daughter and his political views. I reluctantly indulged these conversations for the first two days. Then I avoided him. He felt confused and hurt by the sudden restraint in my demeanor. But I justified it to myself that I can’t always have a sunny disposition or have enough time for every single patient I encounter. His continued attempts to converse with me irritated me enough on the fourth day and I told him quite coldly, “Well, unlike you, I have work to do.” I had already formed an opinion about him in my mind, a social leech. He didn’t bother to talk to me after that. I cringed inwardly but I just let it be. I came in to the ward at 9pm for the night duty. I found him asleep, and tiny hands wrapped around his neck in an embrace, as his daughter cuddled next to him. My heart melted. It was the exact way I cuddle up to my father. This man was a devoted father, loved his family, and tried to keep upbeat during his illness. I had hastily decided he was unworthy of being heard based on few minutes of interaction. I knew it was unfair and felt ashamed. This is just a minor example. We do it more often than we are aware of. Every single day.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Subdued Chaos

The week has been a subdued emotional chaos, halting at unlikely spots, sometimes a little too long, sometimes defying reason.

I read about the hotel manager who had lost his wife and children in the 26/11 incident; he had re-married and has a two year old child now. I tried to imagine what he must have felt holding his newborn, the morbid deja vu of life coming a full circle, the trying attempts to build a new life around the debris of an irreplaceable loss, battling flashbacks of holding other tiny hands or the pain of losing the woman he had committed to love for life. I mourned the fragility of life. Why do we ignore it? Why don't we love with abandon? Why don't we do what we really want to do? Why do we hold back? What do we really treasure? I am still trying to figure out the answers.

After his retirement my father works from home now, and I spend half an hour every day typing and mailing his daily work report because he is stubborn about not using the vile computer. Sometimes I find it tedious, and ask him what he would do when I'm not there. He asks cheekily was I planning to go somewhere in the near future, and I blush at the implied notion of matrimony. We grumble every evening, but when I see him jot down his reports on the black notebook that he carries everywhere, and know that in few minutes he would stand awkwardly beside my bed, clearing his throat and trying to gain my attention, I can't help but smile. I like being useful to him in these little ways, and it brings a quiet satisfaction.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


Change? Hmm...

Wiser? Hah!

Happier? Calmer.

Richer? Dwindling zeroes and scary decimal points on the bank passbook.

Lover? Born again!

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Father's Stories: The Last Jog

 He tells his stories in the afternoon while my head rests on his belly, bobbing rhythmically to his breathing and occasionally shaken by convulsive laughter. The anecdotes evade any chronology or pattern; they are just random, like all memories are, flitting from this to that, a decoration here, an omission there. These recounting of snippets from his life and of those around him aren’t always original, I’ve heard nearly all of them multiple times throughout the years, but it’s a testament to my father’s art of story-telling, the finer nuances of his hand gestures, the adequate peppering of inconsequential details, the gradual build-up of laughter and its patient wait at the threshold for just the correct time with pauses so befitting, and a sense of observation so keen that my mother can’t help feeling the suspense of how a story would end, despite hearing it umpteen times in their thirty three year old marriage!

My father is a funny man, he could always make me laugh with his quips; but I never fully appreciated the veritable treasure of his humour until I too started to look for it in the little incidents that populate our lives. One mundane morning, we were sitting in the verandah reading the newspaper when we heard a cuckoo bird’s call. Others might close their eyes to lose themselves in this melody, but I tell my father how the cuckoo bird lays their egg in the crow’s nest, and later the parasitic young cuckoo destroys the eggs of the very crow that had raised it as its own! My father listened to it and, without looking up from his paper, he replied, “Hoboi aru. Kauri'r mukh khon ebaar monot pelua sun, dekha tei burbok jen nalage janu?” (That’s expected. Try to recall a crow, hasn’t it always looked like an idiot?) His deadpan humour gets lost in translation here, but I can’t help my snorting laugh every time I spot a crow.

I’ll write a series of my father’s stories on my blog now. No linear chronology; not all of them are hilarious; some are too preposterous to be fabricated even; some are so daring, I shudder. These are just random tales I want to share, about my father’s childhood in a village near Jorhat, his college years, his ‘angry young man’ persona at the start of his career, carrying off astounding acts of rebellion to convention and authority, and mainly his detailed observations of the people around him. Today I begin this series with an incident that occurred to one of his friends. I won’t elaborate every detail. I just assume you will imagine it quite well from what I chose to tell.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

november night

in a room with turquoise walls
the radio plays a syncopated hum
and sitting in low wicker chairs
he kisses long fingers and a palm

gazes, unsure and shy, form memories
of navy boots tapping on a wooden floor
of a black dress veiling soft white breasts
stubborn curls, open smiles, and more

mildewed curtains and hearts flutter
lips blow cool air into steaming cups of tea
the trivial, everything, makes them smile
and eyes crinkle in shared gaiety
the unsaid runs parallel to the said
each moment unmasks a vulnerability
will she, does he, when we, maybe
a november night rife with such possibility