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The Week That Was: How I (Almost) Lost My Mojo

You know how, when your parents are doctors, they make you take an annual full-body scan (around your birthday). What? Yours don’t? (Too late in the day to call child services. Oh wait, we don’t live in Canada).

So where were we? Ah yes, body scans (that don’t involve hot Polish flight stewards). There’s this hoopla around my birthday each year (because that’s the only way I’ll remember it) involving blood letting followed by numerical shame. So far it’s been sane. But this time I flunked, miserably. Having prided myself over being a non-fainter, a fever-avenger who only discovered what a body temperature rise feels like at boarding school flu epidemic, age 10 (Oh, so that’s what a fever is), my blood count in the recent test has fallen below borderline, causing much eyeball widening action by the medicine man & woman. Truth is, I wasn’t surprised.

For the first time, perhaps ever in the history of my life, I was sapped of energy, of mental faculties, of interest in everything, for a whole week. It was like my body was begging me to stop, catch a breath, lay still. It was unpleasant. It was not me. I knew I wasn’t eating too well, working out or even breathing normal. Work, by nature, is always frantic. Toddlers are always unpredictable. And yet after going through the motions for months, I was suddenly losing steam.

And after all the promises of doing something about it, “making time for myself” was not on the to-do list. Until the numbers came.

Single digit haemoglobin counts are not my thing, me of the floating above average on the body tests. But suddenly, with the enemy being real and writ in ink, I seemed to be jolted out of running through the day on high speed rails. I was forced to acknowledge each breath, to make it count, to slow the heck down. After weeks I stopped to look at the sunset (without & through my camera lens), to flip through the bedside poetry book, to hear my heart settle, without scrambling ahead.

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Numbers will stay below (blood) poverty line for a while. Routines will follow the clock I often lose to. But I’m hoping I won’t forget to keep my promises, to me.

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In The Now

Don’t you sometimes (well, always) get the feeling that life is running at top speed, right ahead of you and you’re struggling to catch a breath, hold still, make it stop, just a little bit?

So I made a pact, with myself, that I would take a moment to see and enjoy the present, the here and now. Reflecting on the past (for we must allow for that too) I have found that the times I have truly treasured are those spent without the fear of tomorrow or even the next minute.

Then happiness dwells in the littlest things.

It has been catching a glimpse of him behind the crowds leaving the airport gates, and smiling, for that moment, for how much you love him, forgetting the two hours of delayed flights and sweaty waiting.

Or her loud cheers and heavy jumps after a long day, as you shut everything out and just peer inside her twinkling eyes, hoping to capture it in your mind, forever, because time never will.

And happiness is indeed in the littlest things, the effortless, unchained now.

But it is the easiest thing to forget and the hardest to apply.

Unless you endeavor to make a start, to make a promise, to build it for yourself and others, right this minute maybe?

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Abstract art_Love by panc

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

– Shakespeare Sonnet 116

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Songs After Sundown

Songs After Sundown

A river cried God’s name in vain

As treasures spilled onto the streets from a tome

Forsaken love mocked the crimson earth

The night wore a shade of moonshine and verse.

 

Under green tints and shadow games

Wars had begun in the minds of men

They ate words, warm and uncut

While truant leaves churned fortunes in a cup.

 

Time flew in on a half-torn wing

Vanity and want shared a rummy drink

They danced among strewn letters of life

Polished by eyes behind velvet screens.

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Weekend (J)amboree

The weekend whiff is special. It’s glorious. It’s all that it’s made out to be and more. There is hope, deliberation and the feeling that something new (and potentially exciting) is waiting in the wings. It could be the play you want to see and almost miss and then end up watching from the second row. Or your car stereo that you declare dead on arrival, suddenly coming to life.

And mingled with all that’s sweet and pure is the stench of the not-so-far-away monday morning. Bad traffic to start the day with and a string of (hyphen) days rather than (hyphen) ends to look forward to. I wonder if weekdays are getting a raw deal. More than half the world was born on a weekday and surely someone was rejoicing. But for every happy daddy in the waiting room, there is probably a doctor cursing the baby that ate his lunch time, on the nothing-to-cheer-about-weekday.

Saturday then is a godsend, Sunday is huh-what-where’d-it-go day and the remaining famous five are what novelists would not write about. Like all precious things, we arrange safe boxes and lockers for weekends-only activities…the weekend book, the weekend drive, the weekend comedy, the weekend jive.

Sometimes (strictly sometimes) it helps to give weekdays a chance. Pancakes for dinner on a Thursday, high heels and makeup on a Tuesday or embarrassing dance moves on a Wednesday.

The motto then: loathe the activity, not the day. Boycott boredom, embrace weekday stardom

And more often that not, spray on that weekend perfume on what promises to be the worst weekday. If smelling is believing, then a Monday as an aspiring Saturday is a good start.

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In Search of Lost Time

Some stories are supposed to be funny, even if they don’t start out that way.

An early childhood image that often plays in my mind is my mother taking a whole bunch of kids on a picnic by the stream. This was in Himachal. I can’t be certain whether I’ve recreated this image after looking through pictures or it always existed within the dusty folds of my memory box. A permanent fixture in all play-time pictures (and memories) from that time is – let’s call him – Nikhil. He was short, (-er than me), fair, chubby, the sort of kid whose cheeks would tempt you. And he was my best friend.

picnicWhen we weren’t playing by the river, he could be found pulling my fake long hair as we played a couple at a fancy dress in traditional Indian dress, or pretend to be a photographer at my theme party when I wore roses in my hair.

And like all best friends we had our secret. Sometimes when we were alone, I would lie down near the bed (his place or mine), lift my shirt (only a little) and he would make patterns on it using the colorful pieces that actually belonged on top of a black board. Even as curious five year olds, we seemed to be aware of this being something we weren’t supposed to do. It thrilled us to bits.

Then the inevitable happened. Our parents decided to uproot us ‘in search of a better life’. I don’t remember whether his family left before ours. Neither do I recall any tearful goodbyes. We moved to a new place and new friendships were established.

I would soon be packed up for boarding school but some time in the interim, we went to visit Nikhil’s family in Delhi. He now had a baby brother. The only image from that visit is Nikhil and I sneaking under the bed, on which his little brother lay wailing, trying to recreate the thrills from our earlier game. Amidst countless giggles we found a way to enjoy lost time.

Fast-forward to thirteen. I was every bit the teenager with one discarded crush and a new one on the horizon. Life was looking up on the excitement quotient when I was informed that we would soon be visiting Nikhil’s family, who now lived in a nearby region of the national capital. This upcoming visit held countless possibilities. My childhood friend and I were now teenagers. Guilty secrets and games of the past could now be taken to a whole new level. And what a story it would be, albeit clichéd to death on screen.

My heart was pounding as we stepped out of the car and made our way up in the elevator. I tried to calm myself. For all I knew, he may not even be at home. My parents hadn’t exactly specified anything so it was possible.

My father pressed the bell and I stood beside him staring at the dark brown door. I had been smiling in my head all this time.

Finally the door opened, after what seemed like forever. And there he was. The male lead in what would be the amazing story we would tell everyone before they went all ‘awww’ on us. I hadn’t gone on to imagine telling it to our children, but they were probably out playing in the garden in my head.

He was (still) short, chubby and possibly fair. I wasn’t sure about the latter because his face was lost among a jungle of dark hair.

I was heartbroken, in the foolish way that good girls with bad dreams often are. I should have known better. How different could he have been from his childhood frame? And yet I wanted him to be something else, something that could bring on the butterflies, something I could have kissed behind a curtain, but mostly something that would make a good story.

We sat across from each other in the living room without saying a word. We had nothing we wanted to say to each other, not even trite statements about school or the weather. Perhaps this was the worst of all. Not growing up to be lovers was one thing, but being so distant was just sad.

We drove back and after relating the incident to my then best friend from school, I forgot all about Nikhil.

Until last November.

My once-best-friend-turned-stranger was getting married.

Ordinarily, I would pass up such non-events. But there were some reasons this could be done:

·         It was a reception the day after the wedding, so things would move faster

·         The venue was at a fairly decent place that was close to home

·         It was on a Sunday

·         And maybe I wanted to see how bad the years had been to Nikhil

So I went, with my parents and my fifteen month daughter in arm. As we made our way to the stage to congratulate the couple and the family, I caught a glimpse of Nikhil, beaming beside his bride. It was flashback ’89. He looked exactly like he did in our pictures from so long ago. Without knowing why, I began to laugh. I just looked at him and laughed, for the innocence of our childhood, the stupidity of my teenage self and the (possible) wisdom of youth.

As my father stepped in front of Nikhil, he looked confused, as all grooms do after greeting a countless array of faces with no end in sight. His father jumped in and in his inimitable style (he was the host of many a tambola night years before) said,

“Arrey, yeh S—– ke papa” (Hey, that’s S—- father).

The bride looked confused (and possibly murderous under her makeup) as to who this girl was. Like many a dutiful parent who embarrass their children to the best of their ability, her father-in-law explained, “There are countless pictures of S—- and Nikhil playing together as kids.”

Perhaps Nikhil’s wife was relieved to see my daughter. She made a polite “adorable” comment before we stepped off the stage.

I was still smiling as I ate junk without guilt and followed my daughter’s footsteps around the wedding venue. I was smiling for Nikhil and Upasana, for my carefree childhood, for my teen prejudices, for being old enough to have a daughter and for the stories that stay locked in, till their time comes.