I know I want to write this. I also know that I must. What’s held me back for over a year and a half, continues to do so. My heart’s beating much faster and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s because of what they’ll think. Or maybe I’m just trying to sustain a narrative for longer than five and a half sentences. It’s been hard but I must go on. There’s so much to say but yet, there isn’t. There was, and there is, but is there? Post-truth, I hear. One sentence at a time, just write, I was told, once. Not an attempt has gone by without me remembering those words. The urge to break away from elitist writing is at its tipping point, but I must hold on. I need that damned designation. I must express again; maybe not as much as I once did, for no canvas has tolerated me for long enough. Write, just write. Write about what? Clichés and the need to mask breaks in character box me in. Look at how they’re able to churn out master piece after master piece, each better than the last. They’ll never know of my jealousy, what with their accolades muting my embarrassment. I’m not a writer, I never will be. Not like them. I shall try and keep trying, however. Prose, prose-poetry or little scribblings at the corner of my pages, I shall write. And I shall express. I must. I must. I must dissent. A journal and a journalist, I want to be, and a relevant one, I must be. Privileged thought channeled through a main course of fallacy still taps at my senses. I cannot give in. I will say as I once wanted to. Fight. I shall return, one day. I shall come prepared. Add to a discourse and not merely observe it, I will, and fear, I shall not. Fight. Fight for all I’ve learnt from them. Fight for all I’ve come to believe in. Fight for my space and theirs. Fight for them. Fight alongside them. Fight. And write.
The pillar ahead is about five feet wide, and bland. The gloomy white paint was well thought of. Or is it just the lighting? The lights here are different. The white bulbs that line lobby after lobby and corridor after corridor in every hospital are not alone here. Little yellow lights, the kind you see at posh restaurants, shine down on the receptionist and the cashier at their oval-shaped enclosure. It’s nice. Soothing, almost.
Pulmonology, the plaque on the pillar says.
The air smells familiar. Spirit, probably, but not just spirit. It’s the kind of scent you can’t describe but you know oh so well. It’s not as strong here, but it’s around. It brings back memories—of mum trying to smile at me while barely conscious at the ICU, of Renée’s mum being rushed into Emergency, of great grandmum’s ward a few days before her passing, and of my own adventures in half a dozen of these departments at different hospitals. A couple of days later, I’ll find myself a floor above, visiting grandmum at the CCU and later, at her private ward. The air smells different as you go closer to blood. I’m used to it now.
The man next to mum seems to have forgotten about his mother. She’s in a black wheelchair near the reception, her hair as white as the colour itself. She stares at the wall ahead with a blank expression on her face. A few minutes later, the man remembers. He walks up to her briskly and says something, adjusting his glasses and running a hand over his balding scalp. She shakes her head, he takes his seat again. She turns her head to face the reception.
The lounge is full. Each couch seems to reflect a different mood. The couch furthest to us, diagonally to our left, is asleep, both husband and wife. The couch in the center is nervous, a mother and a daughter. The couch nearest to the cashier, is loud and chirpy, a family. The couch closest to us features a talkative father and son pair.
“They’ve all probably done hospital management or something, no?” mum says to me. She’s looking at the reception. The receptionist is new, and new enough not to have gotten the saree they’re all expected to wear. She’s been searching for a file for quite some time now. The lady opposite her is in a navy blue suit. She’s in conversation with another young woman, an intern possibly. “Mrs. Sumadhi? Mrs. Sumadhi!” the lady in the suit yells out. The husband and wife are awake now.
“She’s an M. Pakka. Sumadhi, itseems”, I say. Mum chuckles. “Pakka”.
The elderly man to my right is quiet. He hasn’t stirred or said a word to anyone since he took his seat about 20 minutes back. His hair has been dyed black and his face is wrinkled. His fingers are clasped around the head of his walking stick. It’s black and three-pronged at the bottom. When I let out a series of muffled coughs, he turns to me for a second. A family of three arrives, with two seats vacant to the left of the man. He seems to be aware of the incongruence as he gives up his seat and walks slowly towards the couches.
On the seat furthest to us on the right, is a man doing his breathing exercises. Five short, strong and quick breaths through the nose and one long release through the mouth. And repeat. People are staring at him but he doesn’t seem care. He continues for a good five minutes, only stopping to answer a phone call from someone at work.
The window on the right spans the length of the room. It’s nice to have a window that big. I’ve always found hospitals getting claustrophobic and monotonous after you’ve spent a couple of hours in them. A view of the world outside is like a breath of fresh air. Surprisingly, no one’s looking out. I contemplate taking a walk over to the window when, “Mr. Pranay VK? Mr. Pranay VK!”
Someone is in my spot. I do not like it when anyone but me sits in my place, especially at H302. The usurper seems too busy to understand the sheer magnitude of the situation. I hurl mental grenades of scorn at her as I walk past, heading towards the third column of rows where my people seem to be. There’s a wall-spot available, I take it. The class is buzzing. This is all very strange—there are people in our classroom, people not just from EJP.
A post had gone up on the Literary Society’s Facebook group the previous day calling all Meta volunteers for a meeting. I was a default volunteer by virtue of being a student of my course.
I hated them, they hated me and I didn’t care. They could run me to the ground by repeatedly sending me off to the land of the photocopy for all they liked, but I would never give in. I was determined to receive those infernal pen drives of theirs and later hand over the supposedly ‘urgent’ printouts with a smile. It had felt like a long four days though.
They smile at me now, all three of them—Archita, Jayshree and Rincy. Neeth was too scary to look at. I think I’m starting to be amazed by how well they’re running the fest.
They’re now my Aunties. I like them, I think they like me and we do care.
They’d graduated. Jayshree had decided to quit SJCC and join us as part of the faculty and that was such a big relief to us. The other three will show up, I said to myself. We weren’t on our own after all.
Everything seemed to be under control. “The calm before the storm”, someone said to me before the inauguration. “Shoo”. The backdrop had gone up and all the artwork looked sublime. Venue confirmations were shaky but we had ER on our side. We hadn’t brought in enough money as the Sponsorship Committee, of that I was sure, but god bless the alumni. There was now another EJP class and that meant we’d have a larger recurring audience, and more hands on deck. Chris had found a basic sound and lighting rental down the road from college, so that’d come in handy for the performances.
We were ready.
The valedictory is underway at the quadrangle. Chris and I are spent. Those were the longest twelve days of our lives. The best ones, probably. We’re lying face up on two different black benches located at the periphery of the quadrangle near the fence, to the right of the stage. We can hear them but we’re not listening. The view of the Banyan Tree is rather nice from down here, I think; the stars were shining through the leaves. I couldn’t move. My body just refused to comply anymore. AM is talking now.
“We did it.”
“Yeah. We fucking did it”.
We’d spoken about it. We’d joked about it. And now that the last one was here, things were different.
The last one. Overdrive.
How much money do we need to bring in? Have all the venues been booked? What about page design? Has Pathaan Sir responded? The manager’s still being a pain in the ass? Have we made the stylesheet yet? KTM and Ammi’s said no. We don’t have Loyola for the 19th. We can’t go for print tomorrow, can we? Without the 10K, we’re going to be swamped! We need the generator on for the next 30 minutes; we’ll even buy the diesel! Did you just say that we’re overshooting our page estimate by 10 whole pages?! Keep pushing. We’ll talk to them and figure it out. Let’s print late but let’s print right. Brilliant job, you guys. We pulled it off again. We did it, we actually did it.
They’d ask me for the name of my favourite English film and I’d look them straight in the eye and deflect each time. I’d deflect not because of a sparse relationship with the world of films but rather, the contrary. There are simply way too many good films out there. To pick one among the many has always felt like a tragic betrayal of the others. This feeling ran the way I labelled by friends till the 12th grade as well. “I don’t have a best friend. They’re all equally close to me,” I used to proclaim.
This week has been the most emotionally challenging one yet. I’ve never been one to confide in people, exceptions being the only two people I’ve really been myself with. Keeping it in has been my forte and it has always paid off. This week has been different, however. I’ve screamed at people who’ve annoyed me. I’ve whined, making the most unusual noises. I’ve subjected Timothy to my singing for three hours straight in an empty English Department. I’ve punched walls, tables, poles and more walls.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve come to realise the importance of that one film—THE film. I’ve noticed how Vijeta ma’am and maybe even Archita always turn to a good dose of DDLJ when in distress. I’ve also realised that a person’s favourite movie does not have to be a blockbuster or be absolutely jaw dropping. All that matters to you is what the film does to you. There are good films, there are brilliant films and then there are films that make you feel tingly. I think it’s safe to pick a favourite from the last pile.
I’m not sure if too many people have heard of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, let alone have watched it. If you indeed haven’t, make sure you do because trust me when I say that it will do things to you and possibly even change your life. It did mine, when I first watched it during a nauseating bus ride to Nellore last year. I’ve repeated the act in much more comfortable settings three times since. Today was the forth, and I have decided that this is the movie for me—the movie that I shall turn to each time I find my life to be in complete dire straits; a certain condition I’m sure to be in frequently, now that I’ve to go out there and live in the real world.
“To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, draw closer, to find each other, and to feel. That is the purpose of life.”
There are things I need to do but I’d rather not do them right now. Now is a funny time because it’s both better and worse than later. I don’t have much time; I graduate in a month. What seemed like months, now feels like hours. I haven’t done anything worthwhile in the last couple of hours except pick up a few groceries for mum. I’ve never been good at shopping for groceries, vegetables in particular. I feel like such a vegetable; all I do these days is plonk myself in bed and pass out till the next morning. Mornings these days aren’t as nice as those winter mornings from last month or the month before that when everything was warm. Warmth is now turning into full-blown heat and I hate it. I seem to hate a lot of things, people in particular. People around me are getting weirder than usual. Weird is my middle name and weird is what I am. I’m pathetic with names but brilliant with recognising faces. All these familiar faces I might just forget soon, just like all those people from many years back. Those years, no matter how shitty, are always legendary; you’ll notice soon. My father once asked me about the difference between legendary and great, and I sounded like an absolute twat while attempting to answer him. Twat–I’ve liked the word ever since I first read it in some book. I haven’t read a book in a while; I should probably finish No Onions Nor Garlic. I hate garlic, and raw onions give me a massive headache. I’ve had a perpetual headache for days now and I’m guessing it’s down to how stressed I am. Stress is defined as a “state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances”. Circumstances have sucked off late but I need to push through. Sucked off? Push through? Pervert.
It’s December already. I remember sitting in the Media Lab a couple of months back, calculating how much time we had left. Though the number that resulted was small, it felt like an eternity. Now that it’s December, the minuteness of that number seems to be dawning upon me. Seven more days in December, a couple more in Jan, Feb and March, and we’re done. What next? Laughs.
It’s a mixed feeling, really. On the one hand, college seems more insecure and fidgety—the blurry whites seem to be floating around far too often, sometimes in the disguise of a saree, even. 3rd EJP has borne the brunt of serial butthurt on multiple occasions over the last two and a half years. Take for instance, the curious case of false identification in the field of commerce or them computerised accusations that we are not God’s children. Being the first batch of our course, we really have been through a lot; a little something our juniors shall never understand. Eh, learn to manage logistics, doods. It’s December already.
On the flip side, I’ve been enjoying college more off late. I’ve started listening in class, something that hasn’t happened since perhaps the 7th grade. The Media Lab has become my second home, the Department my coffee shop, and writing my hobby. Gone are the days when boredom could be vanquished by page design or proof reading, but No Onions Nor Garlic is now a companion. I now want to understand Ambedkar and not just stand around and laugh at how puffy his face looked in a statue I’d seen earlier in the day.
In the last week, two things have reminded me of the imminent and fast-approaching end. One, the beloved Aunties are now teaching. Well, except for Crown Kaati Roll Neeth Aunty. That was quick, no? I still remember being the reluctant volunteer for Fandom Menace at Meta 2014 and watching Jayshree munch up sheet after sheet, and bestowing the unknown on ‘Murthy, Murthy, Murthy’ each time I saw her. Eh, stop getting old so fast.
What’s scared me more is that Meta’s in a month and a half. Meta 2000 bloody 16. Futch. It’s December already. But hey, Meta’s probably the best way to go, eh?
The van is nearly empty. There aren’t enough boys left to bother Nanjunda uncle; our incessant ‘clapping’ always got on his nerves. He never quite understood our hand-games, be it Dragon Ball Z with its unlimited loads and load-specific attacks, or hand cricket that amazingly allowed its players to score a thousand runs with a single shot (it involved crossing your arms in front of your chest, much like the blocking move from DBZ). The van was clean unlike Koli’s van that smelt of beedi and sweat, and the three rows of seats weren’t torn either.
I can feel the wind rushing past my hair—quite filmy, now that I think of it. If only they’d let me grow my hair longer than 2.476cms. My right arm is stretch out, flat against the windows on the right. The sibling is across me, on the seat divided by the door. He’d yelled out in surprise a while earlier upon noticing my arm rotate a full 360° against the side of the van. Further along the same seat as him, past the door, sits Komal. Many of these boys who had hit puberty seemed to have what they called a ‘crush’ on her. I wonder if the sibling does too. What? Same age and all. Behind Nanjunda uncle’s seat is Komal’s younger sister, whose name I forget. Wait, she’s my age, no? Forget that logic I told you about earlier.
I’m dying as we go past Food Days. “What’s your favourite song?” Lumin had asked me earlier that day. A simple question, yes, but here’s the thing: I only know about six songs apart from mum and dad’s collection of music that consisted of artists like Kishore Kumar, The Beatles and Michael Jackson among many many others. There they were, both Lumin and Koli, belting out artist names like Eminem and Westlife. I’m 12 and I already feel old.
Music wasn’t my thing. The sibling was forever on his iPod while I was quite content playing NFS II SE. As I said earlier, there were just the six songs that I knew and truly liked: In The End, Macarena, Chama-Chama-Chameleon, Bohemian Rhapsody, Beat It and Yun Hi Chala. I remember running out of bed way past my bedtime each time I heard Yun Hi Chala playing off the radio in the hall and singing along to it with mum.
Picking from these six was a hard task. I couldn’t possibly pick Macarena, for the memory of my younger self bouncing on my parent’s bed while it played, was much too embarrassing to reveal. Chama-Chama-Chameleon, Bohemian Rhapsody and Beat It were too old. Yun Hi Chala was a Hindi song, which they all don’t think is cool. I had but one last respectable choice left and I went with it.
“In The End by Linkin Park?”
“Nice! But I like What I’ve Done better! Do you like Boulevard of Broken Dreams?”
What? “Oh. Yeah.” Shit.
We were the only ones left to be dropped; Komal and her sister had gotten off. “Is it okay if I drop you at that Kidzee, one day?” Nanjunda uncle asked us, turning his head around, looking apologetic. Dad had stated categorically that he expected us to be dropped at home, a few days prior. “Yes, uncle.” The long walk home will give me more time to think.
Why do I like those songs? The lyrics? No, can’t be. I never pay attention to what they say. The chorus is all I remember, IF I remember, anyway.
We’d gone past Raksha’s house a few minutes back.
Then what? How it sounds? Mm? Tune, tune! Yeah, maybe. Something about those six songs makes my stomach feel all warm, and something clicks in my head. Like, the guitar bit from Yun Hi Chala, the chorus from Chama-Chama-Chameleon and In The End, and the beginning of Beat It. These sounds made me go places that I never knew existed. Eh! This happens with Top Of The World and Country Roads also, no?! Ya! So. Must be that, no? Yaaa.
The sibling had won the unsaid race to get home. Steal his iPod today and see what this RHCP, Backstreet Boys and SOAD and all sound like, okay? Yes, okay. Good.
Now how do I tell Ma that I got 23 in Kannada?
I now have a cat. Her name is Heidi. She is retarded. I’ve never had a cat before. Her name was supposed to be Biscuit. Her brother’s name is Donut. He was scared away by a big, black cat. We have not seen him since. She is still adjusting. She has gotten better. I have convinced her that my slipper is the enemy and her new sparring partner. In turn, she has decided that my leg is the prize. I have claw marks to prove this. She doesn’t sound like a cat. She purrs like an idling engine. Her meow can fit right into a horror film. She’s about five months old now. She is twice the size of her 2-month-old self. She doesn’t like milk anymore. Not as much as the non-veg stuff, atleast. She loves the smell of fresh Tender Chicken and demands that my mother feed her rice and chicken/fish every day. I think she likes icecream as well. She spends most of her time at the back of our house near the washing machine. She refuses to leave the four walls of our home. She hates it when the floor is wet. Her bed is a thick and fluffy mat. She loves the feeling of clawing things; the back door mesh in particular. She has two Amazon cardboard boxes near the dining table that she loves sniffing and climbing into. She is never let into my parent’s bedroom. She has the attention span of an unfaithful magnet. Now that she is five months old, she has a boyfriend. He eats out of her bowl occasionally, very conscious of her presence, while she circles him lovingly. Mum describes him as handsome. She seems to be okay with this relationship. He is a grey cat. Heidi now has another dish to eat out of, placed closer to the back door. She likes bubble wrap. I like cats now. Not as much as dogs though. Lucky would’ve eaten her for breakfast.
One day very soon from that day, I was running very fast. I was running fast because one man was riding his bike very hard to catch me. He was riding the bike so hard that the bike said, “Eh! Yeediot! Why man?” and punctured off. When he saw the tuss tire, he jumped off the motorcycle like some James Bond and started running behind me. Actually, I like that Jason Bourne fellow more because he simply simply doesn’t drink and get heart failure and all.
In my school, everybody considered me to be the fastest runner. I was in tenth standard. You know, when you are in those eighth, ninth, tenth standards usually, it sucks lollipop. Dates lollipop, that too. Suddenly hair will come and we boys start off to sound like some goats. I only used to laugh when I spoke. I even thought I was a comedy piece because of this reason.
Anyway, I am still running.
On my right side, there is a cow. I am actually damn scared of cows. Not simply simply because of beef ban and all but because of their tails. They are always shitty and they swing left, right and this side, that side. Once it touched me. I was walking like a decent boy in one side wearing my brand new Aliens Wore Music Ear Piece Set and looking at my LP collection on my blue colour phone that had a chrome finish, when the cow decided to put it one tail whack on my face.
Only 2 inches, by the way, the screen was. Somebody had told me that size does not matter. I showed them this phone and asked them for the letters in the word ‘horseshit’. It’s one word only, no? Okay, okay, come back to this flashback in the flashback.
I had bath with cold water and Lifebuoy three times that day. Geyser was not on.
Left side, now.
There were potatoes. Many potatoes. That’s all.
In my back side, that man was there. In the front side, I saw one long road. The long road went straight to my house. Before I started running, I was actually shopping for fruits. Most of the fruits fell off from the packet when this man scared the fail bouncer man out of me. These bouncer men, no. I actually don’t know; I am not liking these bars. You can ask my friend Yogesh, but. His phone number is I-W-I-L-L-N-O-T-T-E-L-L-Y-O-U@gmail.com.
After the fruits all fell out, I had only one banana in my right hand and two limes in my left hand. All the thakaalis and pumpkin faces for Hello-Veen fell off.
Some few hundred meters from from my house, I decided to not run like one scaredy cat to my house. First reason because I was too tired to run anymore; my left foot was calling me a hajjaam. Second reason because my father’s friend’s great grand uncle’s son’s daughter was at my home. She was more scary than that villain lady from 911 Dalmatians. She would definitely scold me if I brought my life-problems home and bothered my family and other relationships who had also come home for some marriage setting for some neighbour fellow who was somehow related to my aunty.
So I stopped.
“What, man?” I asked him. “Why you’re chasing me like Tom and Jerry?”
“Ey, bleddy fool.”
“Fool? Who you’re calling fool ra, slipper-face? And why the sheet am I bleddy? I’ll beed you up.”
One slap I got. “You don’t want your change or what? Stupid burger!”
I’m trapped in the monotony of my own life. It seems like a lot of gray right now, with a hint of yellow and possibly a dash of black. I try and fail in my attempt to come to terms with what’s happening, for the sun is setting, and it will be a while longer before the lights come on. The keys before me are disappearing.
I look out.
Such stillness. I’ve never seen such stillness. Not one leaf seems to be surfing the cool breeze. I decide it’s a painting. The green is now greener after the rains, and the orange is now more pronounced. The clear sky beyond is the perfect canvas.
It can’t be that monotonous, can it? I don’t think it is anymore. Dig down as deep as you can and you shall get to where you want to be.
Oh, and be sure to look out the window.