Catching up

Hello!

It has been ages since I posted anything. The last post was over four years ago. Much has happened since. Four years ago I was still in college, a little pretentious and foolishly confident. When I read my posts from that time, I read them with a little embarrassment. And four years ago, I would have thought they were good. Well, as people say, you may have lead a perfect life but at no point in life can you look back and feel satisfied with your younger self.

Anyway, time has passed and things have happened. Life has gone on. People have become busy. Technology has made advancements. There are so many things to do on-line, I’m not even sure if people have the time to read blogs any more. Which is why I haven’t posted since then. That, and a loss of confidence.

Let me fill you in on those “missing years” of my life.

When I left college in 2012, I wanted to get into the civil services. As of this moment, in 2016, I am still preparing for the civil services. I have taken the exam twice and have come short. After college, I moved back to my home town, Burla, where I was lonely and friendless. I also went off the internet. I thought that one year of being disconnected from the world will help me concentrate for the exam. I was wrong. I ended up wasting that year with nothing much to show for it.

In 2013, I went back to Kerala and by dint of some luck ended up taking classes at a coaching institute. I also met old friends and juniors. It felt good for a while. Until I realised I wasn’t really doing anything. I wasn’t really prepared enough to take classes. And friends from college and school were beginning to settle down in their lives. Having proper jobs, acquiring things, getting married and so on. At some point of time in one’s life asking your parents for money starts getting to you. And this was that point in my life. And boy, was it hard. I decided to take exams, join for some small government job and continue with my preparations. I took the exam in March 2014, results were out by November and I joined for the job in the Department of Posts in March 2015. Having a job brings a odd confidence in you. At least in my case, it did. Probably because I was unemployed for so long. I acquired things and went on-line again. Looking back,2015 was a good year for me. Mostly because it saved me from the embarrassment of depending on my parents. Of not having an answer when people asked me about my job. I made amends and got back with my friends. But I became a little too social for my own good. I ended up wasting a lot of time. I missed the cut-offs for the CSE 2015 Mains by a few marks. I also made the mistake of taking exams for other mid-level government jobs. That was just plain greed and a very bad decision.

Which brings me to 2016. I am relatively more at peace with myself and even though, I don’t know what I want in my life, I have realised that I will never have the answer to that question. I am taking only 2 exams this year. The Odisha Civil Service exams and the UPSC Civil Service Exams. Most probably, this is going to be my final attempt at these exams. More than the studying, being in the proper frame of mind is essential for exams like the CSE. I have deactivated my Facebook account, reduced time spent on WhatsApp in an attempt to free my mind/sort out the clutter. It is working. I have taken time off work and my preparation begins in the proper sense from this week.I intend to read in my off time instead of spending that time on social media. And write a little.

Which is why I am here in the middle of the night, after a hiatus of four years, writing this post, a little unsure about the point of this article and wondering if anyone is going to read this post. Nevertheless, I intend to write and post new articles whenever I get the time.

Here’s to fresh beginnings!

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Matters of the Heart – II

Loose strands of hair dance around her rotund face, even as the evening sun kisses her gently on the cheeks. In the background, the waves roar as they crash over the rocks and occasionally, the wind carries hints of those enormous splashes of saline water, blowing them right into our faces. There are tourists crowding the beach – that awful din outside suggests so. Perhaps, engaged in doing just the same things I have seen them do during my previous visits; walking around, swimming, sunbathing, posing for and clicking pictures for posterity and some, just standing there trying to savour the beauty of the setting.

And here I am, sitting at the Beatles Cafe at the Kovalam beach, trying to convince myself that this is really happening to me. The setting is unreal, almost dream-like and sitting in front of me is the girl of my dreams, struggling against the wind, trying to manage those unruly strands that clearly, have no intention of taming down. I notice her slightly curved nose, the two crooked incisors and that lone pimple on her forehead. Maybe she is not so perfect after all. That realisation makes her seem so much real, so much here. Between us there is a hint of awkwardness and embarrassment, which is probably appropriate for a first date.

FIRST DATE!!!

Barely a month ago, I was spending my waking hours listening to the songs I had attached to her and daydreamt about talking to her. The idea of us getting together seemed absurd, almost preposterous. And a date? In Trivandrum?? With her??? That is a thought, if thought out loud, would foment laughter. Nevertheless, that irrational belief lived on and kept me going.

So, how did THIS happen?

It was the day after our Christmas break. I saw her walking towards me. I saw a window of opportunity and for once in my life, I decided to be impulsive. I had always imagined that as went up to face her, my heart would jump into my throat, throb wildly and threaten to burst open and spill blood all over my chest. It wasn’t anything like that. I walked up to her and told her how I feel about her and if, she would like to go out with me. Maybe she liked me as well or perhaps my honest, confident way impressed her. You know what her answer was. What you probably don’t and what I don’t have words to describe is the way I felt in that moment.

We came here in the afternoon on my friend’s bike, which I have borrowed today, you know, to mark the occasion and to avoid the grind of the KSRTC buses. We lunched together and wandered around the beach during which I tried to hold hands with her. Which, maybe is partly responsible for my awkwardness. Anyway, we are at this cafe and now it’s almost evening. There are sporadic and sparse bits of conversations, but they don’t last and we are forced to sip our coffees in silence. We look at each other and at times into each other’s eyes and then, look away. During one such routine, she lets out a giggle even as I try to look away. Which makes me laugh, just like that, for no apparent reason. And very soon both of us are doubling up with laughter. This eases the tension and we get chatting again. The evening just gets livelier from then onwards.

The collective whispers of the waves and the crowd is growing louder by the minute, as the sun and the people get ready to retreat from the beach for the day. Gradually sunlight fades away and a toenail clipping of a moon reveals itself. Time has come to end our first date.

While walking back to the bike, my hand brushes against hers. This time, I just go for it. She doesn’t resist, in fact, she twines her fingers with mine.

On the way back, we ride in silence. It’s late when I drop her at the gates of her hostel; she tells me she had fun today. She hurries inside the gates and then stands there. She tells me, she’ll call me tonight. The security guard is glaring at me. Damned restrictions, again. One just can’t catch a break.

As I ride off, I see her, this time in the rear view mirror, standing there just outside the gate with her head slightly cocked to a side, one hand raised, and waving goodbye. The image gradually diminishes and then finally fades from my sight.

P.S. – The events narrated in the post are entirely fictitious, which is kind of obvious, if you think about it. If only life would be so much fair to me. I had started this topic, while still under the ‘romantic haze’, and during one of those spells of unbearable boredom and general ennui, decided to finish the draft and post it. Also, now that ‘clarity of vision’ has been restored, I have decided that this post will be the last one on this topic.

I’ve read and re-read this post and am unable to make up my mind regarding it. I like it in parts, but overall, it seems like some sort of juvenile shit. Editing just makes it worse. However, it has been sitting on my desktop as a draft for a long time and hence, I’ve decided to just post and get over with it.

Also, you might have realised the number of hits on this just blog has gone up to four digits. I know I have pimped and hustled people into reading my posts. Nonetheless, thanks are due to all my friends for this minor achievement. This one is for you, for your patience and kind words.

Thank You!! Cheers!!

Hormonal Imbalances and Matters of the Heart

She obviously isn’t the best around. But there is some quality about her that makes her desirable to everyone. People actually go out of their ways to make one for her. Let’s put it this way, if our college were a Sadya, she would always get the Payasam. That is, if she wanted it. What she wants, nobody knows. And me, I am also not sure. Not sure what I feel about her. There have been these recurring romantic hazes which continue to fall on and lift off my eyes with unfailing regularity. Sometimes, they stay for prolonged periods and during these times, I do nothing. I just lie on my bed and stare at the ceiling all day long. Watching the ceiling fan revolve and send ripples across the cobwebs that hang everywhere. Watching the patterns of light in the room change as morning makes way for the noon, and noon subsequently for the evening. I try to reason. Try convincing myself, of her flaws and imperfections. But I never really can find any. I try to invent some, but am rarely convinced about them. It never works. The feeling subsides, once in a while. Mostly because she is out of sight and therefore out of mind. It works for a while. And then, the vicious circle begins again. It all begins with a smile.

I see her, some distance apart, walking towards me; in her nimble, albeit graceful way. Head poised and the whole body having a fluid like quality in the motion, very reminiscent of some dance form. One would want to keep both the eyes on her. And again one doesn’t want to be caught ogling. Not by her. Not now. Never. I alternately look towards and away from her. Each gaze not more than a fleeting second in duration. Precision clearly is paramount in the matters of the heart. Then, as she comes near me, our eyes meet. I can see recognition in her eyes. The lips begin to curl upwards at the edges; a smile slowly building up, swiftly stretching some way through the cheeks and settling there. I can see the glistening pearl of a tooth or two. The cheeks are pushed high over the facial bones. Thereby, causing the chain of events that originated at the lips with a smile, to culminate with a twinkle at the eyes. Eyes, expressive, reveal their delight in a very earnest way. The customary exchange of greetings occurs and before her presence could register; she wafts away like a gust of fresh air. I wish I could say a few more words, only deep inside I know I could not. The “hello” spoken in that sweet almost childlike tone is still resounding in my ears. For the time being I have to be satisfied with that. I wish I could do something, only I can’t. Not that I lack the courage to do so. Damn those conventions of the society. And, curse these recent developments. Now, she has a job, I don’t.

To paraphrase Rushdie, I have grown obsessed with her, to an extent where the sexual urge has dwindled and there is a hovering uncertainty about what I am after. Uncertain about what I want. Uncertain of what goes in the mind of the female with whom I seem to have grown obsessed. And uncertain about what I actually expect the object of my infatuation to supply.

A Tribute

Vineeth H. Krishnan

It was yesterday. The doors opened and quietly we, in small batches, made our way into the ICU. Third window from the front, we were told. We slowly walked there and looked through the glass window. It was hard to believe that it was the same cheerful, ever smiling Vineeth lying inside. He had always been so full of life. And there he was, our friend Vineeth lying peacefully on the bed. Thin, unconscious and barely recognisable. His body barely made any movement. And apart from the spasmodic breathing and the indices on various machines, there were no signs of life in him. His body organs had failed and only the heart remained. A matter of a few hours, the doctors opined.

Unfortunately, that was to be the last time I was to ever see him. He passed away this morning. As I read the message, my hands trembled and my eyes turned misty. My breathing became uneasy and for a moment, I went blank. I had known it was inevitable and it was near. However, the fact that I was to never see him again hit me hard.

“Come to college at 10:30, if you want to go for his final rites”, the message read.

Should I or should I not? Finally, after some debating, I decided against it. I have never been comfortable with deaths. And this was far worse than anything I could have ever imagined. First, there was this terrible pain of loss. And as if it were not enough, there was a frustrating feeling of sheer helplessness, standing there unable to do or say anything. What words of comfort can one say to a mother who has lost her son? Aunty has been incredibly strong during the entire ordeal. I surely did not have the courage to face her now.

Instead, I sat down and said a prayer for him; to give peace to his soul and solace to his family.

After a while I decided to reflect and record his memory that remains etched in my mind in vivid detail. Lest I forget. People tend to exaggerate the virtues and negate the flaws of a person after his/her death. I am not intending that when I’m writing this.

He was a noble soul. I have never heard anyone say bad things about him, neither have I ever heard him bitch about others. No, he was the pacifist. The organiser of tours. The glue that bonded our class together. Our source of joy.

“Hi! I’m Vineeth H. Krishnan…you are from Orissa, right? You know hindi?? Mujhe hindi aata hai.”

And then as an afterthought, “Aur Bengali aur Tamil bhi.”

It was probably the second or third week after college began and I had met almost everyone else. And this was our first meeting; his very first words to me. I don’t know where he was for all that time but I was just glad to know him. Over the first year we interacted regularly and got to know each other better.

However as it was to be, I grew a bit apart from the class in the second year. Which I think, was mostly due to my own frustration of not knowing Malayalam, staying away from home and a host of other reasons. It was during this time that Vineeth and Jithin moved into Darul Fawaz, a house near the college. I don’t remember much about that time. I recovered just in time for the fifth semester. It began on a good note and I reconnected with the class.

It was the day of the Machine Shop lab examination. I was pretty excited that day, as I was starting for home that evening. I remember Vineeth and me getting on the same bus. We sat together and chatted; probably one of the longest conversations we ever had. He was going home for Christmas as well. I got down at Statue and said my goodbye. The vacation, like any other, was spent making merry and enjoying at home.

Upon returning however, I was to receive terrible news. Cancerous tumour had been detected at four places in Vineeth’s brain. Most of us were shattered, but still there was hope. We went to visit him over weekends; to cheer him up in whatever way we could. I remember a few things of the time I went. He was under a lot of pain, very weak and as is typical of people undergoing radiation therapy, tufts of hair had fallen off. Random strands of hair crowded the place he sat. There was a bulge on the forehead where the probe for the biopsy had been inserted. He needed support to walk and even after that, it was unstable. He was reluctant to speak at first, perhaps out of the weakness. Perhaps, his memory was failing a bit as well. When aunty asked him to identify us and tell our names, he kept mum. After some cajoling, however, he strained his memory and finally blurted, “Saptarshi”. And I couldn’t decide who was more proud of him, me or aunty. We all played carom that afternoon, before finally returning back.

A month after that, Vineeth delighted us by rejoining us in the class. This time, he wore a black cap over his head, walked in small measured steps and almost always sat on a bench in the corner. Often silently and speaking rarely. His face however always wore a very profound and content, almost childlike smile.

All went well till the end semester exams and things looked bright for a while. But the higher powers had something else in mind, apparently. He developed some problem with his eyesight and started throwing up. His condition soon worsened and he was admitted into hospital again.

Exams and his admission into the ICU soon afterwards ensured that we couldn’t visit him. Until one day last week, when he was shifted to a cabin. We went to see him promptly.

He lay on the bed with eyes wide open, drawing air through a pipe inserted through the larynx. He had lost the sight of his eyes and had been in coma for over a month. Reed thin, bony legs. Arms so soft as if devoid of any muscle of any kind. A bony, bald figure lay on that water cushioned bed that day. It was hard to stand there looking at him. It was with very heavy heart that we returned to Trivandrum.

I saw him once more; that was yesterday. And now he is gone, leaving us impoverished, robbing our lives of his presence.

Vineeth was not my best friend. We were at best, reasonably close classmates. But his absence hits me hard. His prolonged illness and now, his death have been very painful for most of us. Nary has been a moment when we don’t miss him. When we write exams, when we are in the lab, when we sit together and chat, when we mass bunk classes.

Oh, Vineeth. We loved you, boy. Tears fall off my eyes as I write this. I know you have gone away. I don’t know where you went and where you are. All that I wish is to let you know, it has been a pleasure knowing you. Our lives are richer because you were a part of it. We miss you and will continue to do so. We love you with all our heart. Your memory will be cherished and will remain with us forever.

You live, you learn!

Saptarshi Purohit is officially quitting drinking and whatever bad habits he has accumulated over these goddamn years. Period.

In case you are going to read the whole thing and don’t know me well, there are a few things you should know about me. I stay at Trivandrum (Kerala) while I hail from Burla, Sambalpur in Odisha. It takes 38 hours by train to travel from one point to another. And there are no direct flights either. Nobody in my family knows Malayalam and my parents know precisely two people in Trivandrum.

Without further ado.

Yesterday was a night of “endless” revelry, the purpose of which is now lost to me and in retrospect, the celebration wasn’t called for in the first place. The celebration marking the end of a year which hasn’t been all that great for most of us sounds incredibly foolish. Waste one day to mark the “successful” wastage of yet another year. Ironically, the ones missing from the celebration were the ones for whom this year has been extraordinarily awesome. Spectacular, in fact.

Anyway, the ensuing morning our champion feller here emerged as a no-gooder lowlife, having slept the previous night in a pool of his own vomit and woken up to the stink of the stale vomit with the emanating fumes of malodorous sweet alcohol. The caked vomit was washed off the face and other body parts. Fresh clothes were put on. And that was when the throbbing pain in the head was first perceived.

FUCK!!! I have fucking migraine. I should pop a pill. NOW. And as I reached for the pills usually kept in the drawer, I burped and out came the remains of the food or whatever crap that was consumed half a day back.

Weeping Jesus on a cross!!!

This has to be the worst day of my life.

Calm down. You are just panicking. Have a sip of water.

Gulp. Ah! Some relief.

I reached out for the pills again and opened the drawer. Only to find the foil lying crumpled at one corner with one pill remaining. Ideally, I should be taking two. The prescribed method being: take one at the onset of migraine and another half an hour later. Else it won’t work.

As I sat pondering over what seemed like a cosmic conundrum, the divine forces intervened. The dilemma was solved. I vomited a second time, this time whatever water that had been consumed a few minutes back. No point in taking pills then. Anyway the pain didn’t seem unilateral, and hence could rarely be the onset of migraine. However, now the dehydration and the hangover were to be dealt with. Having no such previous experiences, I decided to call someone who had braved the ordeal a couple of times earlier. The phone was searched for and found. Only to find over 50 missed calls from everyone who owned a phone in the family starting last night at 10 pm and now it was nearing 10 am. And soon enough came the next.

“Hello Bapa (father)!! Yeah, No…I am safe…I realise you have been worried…Haan I understand…but I was not in my room. Had celebrations on the terrace and since the newly acquired phone is both expensive and easy to be misplaced I left it in my room…just returned. No..no need to panic…”

“Hello Mama (grandmother) I know..I understand how families are…It’s okay for you to panic but it was without reason…”

This is repeated over the next 5-6 minutes as the phone is passed all around the family. Mind you ours is a joint family. There have been 15 waiting calls from various relatives which I have rejected meanwhile. I mentally take note to call them immediately after I end this one.

And then another revelation is made. The younger uncle (In case you don’t know and must have to, I have two) has gone all the way to Belpahar, to my junior’s house. Junior here is my junior in college (CET). And the said place more than 200 kms away from my home (rough figures, I may be wrong here but it is not nearby). This drastic step was prompted by the absence of my local guardian here. And my dad had misplaced the phone number of the only other person they know in Trivandrum. 5 of those 15 missed calls were from my uncle.

“Oh shit (muttered under the breath)..okay, I’ll get back  to you in a while…let me call him first.”

Hurriedly dial the number.

“Hello Chacha (Uncle)!! Haan..no, I’m okay.(Narrate the whole episode sans the drinking part)…No there is no need to go there…”

Uncle replies he’s at their place already and now everyone around is relieved. And I just don’t know what to say. A moment of silence. Perhaps he can sense my guilt. Father was too relieved and the rest too emotional. Nobody noticed anything unusual. But uncle is not distracted. He also studied engineering; he knows what goes on around here.

Call home, he says. I murmur a yes and disconnect. I start noticing things. My legs are a tad wobbly and I am laughing too much. Maybe my speech slurred too. I normally am very respectful when I am talking to elders and laughing a lot surely is not respectful. I was not brought up in that way. My liberal parents are aware of my occasional drinking.

“You are now an adult. You are responsible for your ways now. All we can do is advice. But remember you should always be in control.” My mom’s very words. And I was yet to talk to her.

I ring up my mom.

“Haan Maa (mom)…(The by now much abused story is repeated)…”

Your mom knows you well. She tells you in her usual nonchalant way she never doubted for a minute that you were safe. Her unshakable faith in her God gave her that much, if nothing else. So she has been calm while others have called people in frenzy.

She then adds, “I knew all this time that you probably have been drunk or have been over at some friend’s place…”

I say, “There was drinking of course”

“I knew you…oh…you have started it again. These are not good things. You are from a respectful family. Just know what you are doing.”

“Umm. I had just one to give them company. I wasn’t even drunk. Anyway mom, I’ll talk to you later. Glory (sister) has been calling for a while now.”

I disconnect. Call up a very tense Glory, Manish (best friend) and Siddharth (distant cousin who has grown dearer over the years, very close now) in that order and reassure them.

Finally, I take a deep breath, sit on the bed and reflect upon the preceding conversations.

One??? You surely had TEN. Probably more. Definitely more. You have lied a lot. With each lie your  guilt has been compounding and by now you are literally in tears now. You start to sob. And as you sob it strikes you. You realise the truth. What your inhibited senses failed to pick up. The restless night during which the family members shifted from one side to the other having been unable to sleep is not hidden in their tired voices. The suppressed anxiety in mother’s voice hits you the hardest. How could you not get that??? You are her goddamn son.

That takes a while to sink in. You are unable to believe, yet you continue along the chain of reflections. You realise except for lying you haven’t done much. Perhaps your being safe has provided them some relief. But then you just woke up from a night of alcohol induced sleep lying in a pool of your vomit. Whatever they have done so much for you all over these years comes to you now. Everything is flashing before your eyes now. These are the people who actually care for you. Sure you have friends, wonderful ones acquired over the years. If you die tomorrow they will feel bad for a day. Even less, perhaps. But family (Manish and Siddharth included) will be the ones genuinely hurt. How is the mom ever going to live with you gone??? What about the dad who has though never directly but definitely expressed his love for you in a million of his unique ways??? Who will support him when he needs someone to?? And you shamefaced bugger have you have done nothing but lie right to their faces.

You are crying now. You haven’t in a long time. You didn’t when you faced hardships in college. Never, even when the dismal results were handed out. You have controlled the frustrations well and hidden them deep. Perhaps you shouldn’t have. Bravery has been confused with the fake bravado here. You let go of things and cry your eyes dry. You emerge a better person, at least a resolved one. You will give up all the bad habits you have acquired immediately. Anything that you used to frown upon while you were still at home has to go. It is for a reason advice is sought from the elders. You have to respect and care for lessons that have been learnt over the years. Experience is not over-rated, it never was.

The lesson has been learnt, albeit the hard way. This episode hopefully won’t be repeated.

There is smile on my face as I lie down to sleep the hangover off.

An Excerpt

Was chatting with a friend a while back. A lot of things were discussed and at some point of time, I was reminded of my late grandfather. And the following lines, excerpts from Sir H. Rider Haggard’s classic, King Solomon’s Mines, crossed my mind. The words are profound, poignant and deeply moving.Thought of sharing it here.

“Yet man dies, not whilst the world, at once his mother and monument remains. His name is forgotten, indeed, but the breathe he breathed yet stirs the pinetops on the mountain, the sound of the words he spoke yet echoes on through space; the thoughts his brain gave birth to we have inherited today. His passion are our cause of life, the joys and sorrows that he felt are our familiar friends – the end from which he fled aghast will surely over take us also! Truly the universe is full of ghosts, not sheeted churchyard spectres, but the inextinguishable elements of individual life, which having once been, can never die, though they blend and change, and change again for ever”

The Joker and The People at The College

The exams at The College got over on Nov 30. The People had nothing to do except to wait for the lab exams.

The Joker (aka Faculty member in charge of the labs at The College) had said, “Take a break People, go home. The labs won’t be till after the Machine tools lab (in late December).”

Reassured, The People went home. A few of them even went out of the state. Others who stayed back also revelled in the joy of the getting two weeks off after a month of exams (a luxury in The College aka Hell). For six days they enjoyed the joblessness and The People were just begining to enjoy it when the The Gods of the Mech Dept. of The College intervened. They could not bear to see The People happy, even if it was for a few fleeting moments. The People had toed the line. They were sinners, who had committed the unpardonable sin of letting their hair down while still being students at The College aka Hell. How dare they??? They had to be punished. These People had to be taught a lesson.

So, a plan was drawn. And boy, was it brutal! A notice was put up, during the so called “holidays”. The People won’t notice and hence will be screwed. The plan was perfect and executed well. The People had to write an exam within 24 hours. All this, while they were still at Chennai, Cannanore, enjoying elephant rides in the forests of Wayanad and Muthanga and Godonlyknowswhere. They had to mug and spit in less then 24 hours. The People were screwed.

However, as one of the Gods pointed out, after all these years in hell, people were now used to doing that. That was no punishment. That was when The Joker spoke. And as he spoke everyone could see why he was called “The Joker” and not just any other clown. He had hit where it hurt the most. He had seized the records. The People had nothing to mug from. The Joker had pulled off something that would make Osama-bin-Laden proud. The People were genuinely screwed now.

As was planned, The People got the news. Just in time enough to realise they were being screwed. A few among The People tried to raised an alarm. A few brave and courageous ones even went to argue with “The God”, for it takes bravery and courage in copious amounts even to face him. An attempt was made to save their asses, but in vain.

What ensued was bloodshed that can’t be described by mere words.

Alas! The People were still screwed.

The Joker had won.