A Reminder – Nov 2016

*Likely to be applicable for the next 10, 20, 50 years*

***

  1. Health is your greatest wealth. Health is your greatest wealth. Health is your greatest wealth. (Repeat this to yourself 29 times, and then another 10 times for good measure).
  2. There is nothing quite as liberating as the first full breath of fresh air that you will draw deep into your lungs after days of struggling with swollen sinuses. Don’t let your sinuses swell like that again. Oxygen is life. Literally.
  3. When you wake up every morning, have a glass of water. It helps you deal with hunger pangs, and mood pangs, and is mildly meditative. It will set the tone for you for the rest of your day, because you’ve already started your day doing something good for your body.
  4. After day 3 of no-exercising, and the alarm goes, and you think you’re too tired and you can get to your workout tomorrow, because tomorrow will come anyway, NO. Get your butt out of that bed, into your workout gear, and out of that door. You will not regret it. Even if it’s a half-hearted attempt, you will not regret it.
  5. Greed and gluttony will do you no good. When your body tells you that it has had enough food, listen to it. You will regret that extra whatever-it-is-that-you-took 15 minutes after you’ve consumed it. Save yourself while you can.
  6. Don’t stop reading. Read everything, and read widely. Even when you’re writing, try to read. Find new things to read. Deviate from what you usually read. You will only be better off for it.
  7. Write a few words every day. Even when you think you have nothing to say, open up the Notes tab on your iPhone and write about what you see around you. Exercise your writing muscles every single day no matter how difficult it is to write something because one day, it will stop being so hard, and it will get easier.
  8. Write to someone you love at least once a month – pen to paper, hand to heart, at your desk with music for your company. You don’t even have to send the letter if you don’t want to, but write to someone you love. Often, the words you share with your loved ones are the words you would also need to hear for yourself.
  9. Never underestimate the power of a good haircut, good colour, and a good outfit. Even when you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck, at least wear one item that gives you some form of pleasure. You will feel that much better about dealing with the world. (P.S: Don’t postpone getting a haircut for too long – it messes with your mind)
  10. You really don’t need to deal with unnecessary, toxic drama. You don’t even need to process it – not yours, not anybody else’s. Delete.
  11. Water the plants and feed the animals every single day. You need them more than they need you.
  12. Get some sunlight often. There is something about being alive in sunlight that no amount of books/tv/art can give you.
  13. Speaking of TV, learn to savour the process of watching and learning about TV. There is a lot to explore, and not everything is worth bulldozing through. Slowly. Savour. The. Process.
  14. Celebrate your victories and analyse your failures equally. You have won in some ways, and lost in others. Both deserve equal attention, and play an equal part in moulding you.
  15. Write lists whenever you feel tired/confused/overwhelmed/etc because they help you to make sense (and even if they don’t make sense, they give you a false sense of assurance that you are doing something to organise chaos and sometimes, that is all you need).
  16. It is okay to cry. Just don’t spend all your time crying cos there’s a lot to do, a lot to see, and a life to live.

My Mother’s Tongue.

I’ve been thinking a lot about languages lately. Hence.

***

My mother’s tongue comforts me on days
I yearn for familiarity –
Words, feelings, colours that come to me even in my sleep,
Subconscious-awakening, fed to me with
Breast-milk,

And then when I was a little older,
Sambhar mixed with rice, one handful, one kaipidi at a time,
By world-weary hands stained with manjal.

(“Protects you from cancer”, Amma used to say,
She, who would, years later, survive chemotherapy drinking
Milk laced with turmeric, still, still believing)

When I say “my mother’s tongue”,
Really,
I am referring to my mother’s culture, her beginning,
Her mother’s beginning,
Ancient, fiery, pulsating,
Like the colour red that dances between my mother’s eyebrows
Her pottu, that she never leaves the house without.

(“Wear your mangalyam with pride”, she tells me, the
wayward daughter who forgets more than she remembers,
forgets, forgets, until – )

The days when the belonging disappears,
When the brown skin is always reminded of its colour,
When English, the deserting friend, the language of the adopted
Slips through my fingers no matter how hard I
Try to hold on to, because,
It has never been mine, never will be.

When I stand on the outside, looking in, trying, trying,

My mother’s tongue comforts me on days
I yearn for familiarity –
Words, feelings, colours, that come to me even in my sleep,
Subconscious-awakening, fed to me with
Breast-milk,

And time-tested love.
***

Notes from a Bus Ride

In the bus: a little Indian girl and her father are sitting across from each other. The child is tired, her little feet dangling in the air, red velcro sandals swinging gently as she slips into slumber.

Her father watches her as she nods off a little more violently, her little body lurching with sleep.

He tries to wake her up. Her eyes open blurrily for a second, she nods without processing what her father says and falls back asleep again.

This time her father scoops her up into his arms, holding her close as she curls into him and continues sleeping.

I have no doubt that one day, this little girl will grow up to see a similar scene in a bus and smile, remembering her father. Just like how this grown up girl, who’s witnessing this scene, smiles.

And she will furiously type into her phone to capture this memory, before life shifts it into a corner of her brain where she will forget.

It is this safety that we seek in love. The safety of letting our guard down, and trusting that the person/people we love, will hold onto us when we are barely able to hold onto ourselves.

Sometimes love really is as simple as that.

Mother.

It is another Sunday afternoon. My father and I have just returned from the gym. I can barely feel my legs as I lower myself onto the floor, by the sofa where my mother is seated. She is perusing the newspapers for the day- her morning ritual, reading out parts of articles that amuse her.

It is the 8th of May 2016.

This time last year, my mother was fighting for her life in the CCU Unit in a derelict hospital in Varanasi. I was away at that time, traveling through the less explored parts of China. I only knew about her condition when I landed in Singapore several days later. I still remember receiving the call from my father, telling me to make the necessary arrangements to come down as soon as possible because he didn’t know if my mother was going to make it.

I was 24 years old, and my mother was dying in a hospital very far away from me.

There are some moments in your existence where life makes sure that you are aware of your priorities very, very quickly. It is like a shock to your system – a violent, tumultuous shift of tectonic plates somewhere deep inside your soul that forces you to remember exactly what is important in life, exactly what matters most.

My life has been filled with those moments, and most of them have to do with my mother. To cut a long story short, I made it to India in time, my mother eventually made it out alive, and here we are today, her methodically reading her papers, and me sitting on the floor after a hectic morning workout.

My mother mispronounces a word and I quickly correct her, my voice laced with irritation. This is not an unusual occurence.

I wrote several days ago that I am very unforgiving of home. What I really meant to say was, I am very unforgiving of my mother. I expect perfection from her, in her deeds and in her thoughts, because to me, my mother is the pinnacle. She’s it. If she falters, then what more can one expect from mere mortals, random strangers, friends?

(A deeper fear is, if she falters, then what more can I expect from myself, her daughter, who is so far removed from all that she is?)

I don’t know how to rationalise these expectations. So instead, I unleash my derision on her. Picking on her for little things. Getting angry when there is no reason to be. Etc. Etc.

You would think that as someone who has nearly lost her mother several times in her life, I would have more perspective (what happened last year is just the tip of the iceberg that is my mother’s fantastical, almost miraculous life). But, I forget. It is easy to take for granted someone who gives unconditionally. It is easy to take for granted someone who is so good at what she does, and who she is – be it keeping the house clean, managing the finances, having excellent aesthetic sense, giving advice, etc – that it is easy to forget that she too is human, with her mood swings, her good and bad days, her insecurities, her infinite human complexes.

It is easy to let the little things cloud the bigger picture.

This period since I’ve been back home has been an exciting, sometimes turbulent, mostly joyful experience of getting to know my mother as the woman she is. It has been a journey of rediscovery, and a renewal of a relationship that has seen its fair share of wear and tear. It has been a journey of detaching enough to understand that my mother is her own woman, as much as I am my own woman. Our personalities are very similar, and yet, so different. Acknowledging the similarities and taking pride in that has been my journey. Acknowledging the differences and accepting that her daughter is her own person, has been her journey.

On most days, we meet in the middle, and laugh at each other. On other days, we yell at each other, our quick tempers rising to the fore and abating, with one of us eventually conceding and raising the peace flag.

And so life goes on, my mother and I walking our paths together, yet separate.

And today, there is only gratitude, that we have both arrived at this together, and that we will both continue together.

What more can any daughter ask for?

Happy Mother’s Day, dearie. For everything that you are, and for everything you’ve taught me to be.

 

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Musings.

Musings.

***

I suppose one thing remains true:

We are all afraid of getting hurt.
We are all afraid of putting ourselves in a position where we can be rejected by another; when the reactions to this rejection are beyond what we have carefully planned for ourselves.
We are afraid of losing control.
I have realised that the person who needs my own advice the most, is me.
“Learn to let go”
“Give up these expectations that you have of other people”
“Remember that no one person can plug the love-holes (no, not that one, the others) in your life.”
“You cannot wait be waiting for absolutes all your life”
“The search for perfection is futile”.
Etc, etc.
Sometimes, I forget that the words I keep repeating oft are not the ones that others need to hear; these are the words that I need to internalise more, to believe more, so that maybe, I will feel better, feel better about
the fear
the loneliness
the rejection
the possibility of happiness
or otherwise.
There are no coincidences in life.
People don’t come and go from our lives by chance. The roles they have to play have  come a full circle – the necessary exchanges have been rightfully conducted. Exit stage left, because a new beginning is waiting, waiting to enter.
Learn to let things go with grace.
Learn to invite people in with grace.
Learn that hurt too, is made better with grace.