I is for injury and illness

It’s hard to imagine that there existed a time when I could saunter into a public space with sniffles and a nasty cough and not worry about fatally infecting folks around me. It is equally painful to think of the times when falling sick did not bring on a bout of health (read: Covid) anxiety.

I arrived in Auckland a month before the virus gained momentum. I remember feeling sick the night our flight landed. My throat felt terribly sore and I could sense an impending fever. I distinctly remember feeling grateful for to my parents for being around at the time because the idea of being alone and ill terrified me.

Fast forward to two months, I suffered from a sudden bout of stomach flu. One night I came down with low-grade fever and body-ache and my stomach felt like lead. In a state of panic, I googled my symptoms to check whether they matched with those associated with Covid. Despite not finding anything online that confirmed my fears, I couldn’t shake off the feeling that I was an outlier with rare symptoms that advanced gradually. A part of me was convinced that I would be a super-spreader causing a catastrophic outbreak in Auckland.

My health anxiety was assuaged when the university health service staff confirmed that I wouldn’t require a test since I hadn’t traveled overseas over a month. I was prescribed paracetamol. My friends cooked for me. H checked on me from time to time. Despite their kindness, I felt terribly homesick. I had to fix my own cold compress. I had to massage my temples. Sickness didn’t make dirty dishes disappear magically. Being sick as an adult meant your day would progress the way it usually did and it was up to you to handle yourself.

Fortunately, I recovered in two days.

I am prone to getting frequent migraines. In particular, I remember one evening when I came down with the mother of all migraines. It blinded me and made me empty my guts out. I called up my mother and wept. It was the first time I had felt that debilitated in the confines of my room. My mother comforted me and gave me tips to treat my headache.

Whilst I learnt to cope with falling sick to a certain degree, I hadn’t accounted for injuries. Last October, I injured my right wrist in a bout of overconfidence while bouldering. Though the pain radiated through my arm it didn’t feel like a broken wristbone. I shrugged it off as a sprain and borrowed my friend’s wrist brace. However, when the pain didn’t resolve in two weeks I dragged myself to a physiotherapist, once again on my friend’s recommendation. I was diagnosed with a ligament tear that would take over two months to resolve. I had to imprison my right arm in a firmer wrist brace and not exert my wrist in its absence.

I did not realize the extend to which my injury would impede my daily functioning. Not only could I not carry heavy items but also I had to lay off most forms of physical activity besides walking/jogging. My wrist proved to be a big hindrance during our move to the new house. H never complained but I felt guilty watching her carry our boxes. There were days when I fervently wished to go back in time and reverse the mishap. During this entire period, I had biweekly check-ups with the physio to track my recovery combined with light exercises. It was only by the end of January that I was given the go-ahead to resume normalcy. Thankfully, the Kiwi government insures all residents against accidents. I didn’t shell out a penny for my sessions with the physio! Despite this, I realize that I can’t afford to be careless and injure myself again.

All in all, adulthood isn’t always dandy…it’s about being accountable for yourself, both in sickness and in health.

D is for discovering a new city

Whilst I spent the first eight years of my life in Bombay, I spent the rest of it – until the age of twenty-six – in Pune. The latter saw me awkwardly transition from a preteen to an under-confident teenager but subsequently step out of it gracefully into my early-twenties. Before Auckland, it is safe to say that I had only known one city to a reasonable extent; reasonable since I only began exploring the city interiors as a graduate student. I am ashamed to confess that I would still require Google Maps to navigate through significant parts of Pune.

My therapist assured me that over time my homesickness would be replaced by appreciation towards Auckland, undoubtedly so as one of my reasons for moving here was the charm it held over me even when I was miles away in my room in Pune filling out doctoral application forms. And boy, she was right.

“this is how I’ll remember the end of my first week alone in a city that is slowly growing on me – the sea, a lovely evening breeze, a smile, my John Mayer tee, Shamoon Ismail and a playlist that seemed to have been made for this place, not to mention meeting a lovely stranger who offered to click my pictures. I feel good!

an excerpt from my caption on Instagram

In my first post, I fleetingly mentioned some of my favourite haunts such as the park with the friendly trees aka Cornwall Park and the Ferry Building. For today’s post, I’ll let my pictures do the talking.

These are a few pictures from an astronomical collection that continues to grow with each passing day.

Bombay watched me grow into a carefree child doted on by her grandparents.

Pune witnessed me brave adolescence – my first bout of period cramps, my first heartbreak, my first panic attack, the grief of losing my grandparents, the heartache associated with losing your loved ones to distance or/and irreconcilable differences – and my metamorphosis into an anxious young adult who found love by serendipity , a post-grad degree (in a course she truly enjoyed) and her first job unexpectedly. Pune watched me endure a flurry of disappointing circumstances coupled with the intense anxiety of having overstayed in one place for too long. Finally, she watched me arrive at a solution – the resolve to leave the comforts of a home life and carve a new one for myself.

Auckland observes me navigate adulthood, easing me into it with her quiet charm.

C: Cleaning and Cooking amidst Covid

I have always considered myself to be a person to whom statistically improbable but optimistic things happen. Like the time I absentmindedly dropped my college backpack – containing priced possessions such as my science journal and my newly made driving license – from my moped at the petrol pump, realized it too late yet managed to recover it by the end of the day, thanks to a good Samaritan. Or the time I almost forgot my fairly new smartphone in a Swiss train that was about to pull out of the station, but fortunately managed to retrieve it by signalling frantically to the guard who had the sagacity and generosity to let me into the coach. Or quite recently, when my flatmate and I forgot our house-keys and had the building staff unlock the door to our flat within which our foster cat – that had no business being there owing to strict building regulations – went unnoticed.

And so it came as a mild surprise to me when I realized that I had indeed escaped a pandemic – the phrase sounding tad unfamiliar as I mouthed them – since it can be safely concluded that this country has, in fact, done a commendable job of managing the first wave of Covid-19. Whilst we have had our fair share of lockdowns, the impact of the virus has been lessened by rigorous testing and aggressive contact-tracing methods employed by the government. I am grateful and I mean it sincerely, with every bone in my body.

Barely had I begun to get over my homesickness and explore the city when the first lockdown struck. Fortunately by then, I had found myself a small circle of friends within Unilodge (the university accommodation) and we stuck by each other through thick and thin. Besides sharing our meals and playing board games together, I spent the remainder of my time juggling work-from-home (nope and nope) and cleaning. Yes. I realized that I am indeed my father’s daughter and hence, a self-certified neat-freak. To top that, my favourite childhood game – kitchen-kitchen – began to acquire a real touch with each passing day as I began to sharpen my culinary skills.

My first tryst with deep-cleaning occurred when I realized in dismay that the minuscule freezer in my mini fridge was prone to heavy frosting. As a result, the fridge door wouldn’t shut and upon consulting the reception staff, I was advised to defrost the freezer. Now, I hadn’t prepared myself for the copious amount of icy water that is a by-product of the process. Don’t panic – I told myself and began to assiduously wipe off the water that had pooled in and around my fridge. I also owe to my old friend from Toronto, who gave me company through a video-call whilst I grumbled my way through the task.

My cleaning regime, quite naturally, also involves vacuuming carpets – an activity that makes me groan at first but immensely satisfies me with its results. The vacuum-cleaner at Unilodge was an annoyingly heavy entity that had to be lugged from another floor into my studio. But now we have a lighter and more convenient version of the same that makes me groan less.

Moving on to my experiments with food- I’ve become quite the meat consumer now as vegetarian cooking tends to be limited by a bleak but pricey selection of vegetables, especially in winters. Plus, there’s a thrill in exploring cuisines that had been denied to me back home due to kitchen restrictions. Perhaps, the most exciting thing that I learnt to cook first (meat-wise) was chicken curry, thanks to my enterprising coworker and friend (if you are reading this, here’s a shoutout!)

Chicken curry – first attempts

However, comfort food is not replaceable; for example, sambaar and curd rice, khichdi, roti-sabzi and dosas.

The first weeks of being alone in a new country may have been daunting but I always did keep faith in my ability to cook for survival. There were instances of impulsive shopping and food spoilage but over time I devised weekly meal plans and menus to prioritize ingredients as per needs instead of wants. Here’s how I began –


My food ordering habits have drastically reduced. I would call myself a lazy chef at times but a good one alright. The best part about cooking is sharing what you’ve cooked with your loved ones. Though I didn’t mind dining alone, my motivation to cook did waver. Ironically, the lockdown reversed this for me. It brought my current flatmate/friend and I closer, and we began to share our meals on a daily basis which in turn helped us to economize. My friend is a fantastic cook – lucky me! This mouth watering spread has been brought you be us –

B is for buying groceries

Now it may seem like I have been spoilt rotten by my parents or led a bougie lifestyle up until I moved here – this is partially true – but I found it overwhelming to aisle-shop or go to huge supermarkets or departmental stores on my own during my first week in Auckland.

Back home, the most economical way to shop for produce is to walk down to your nearest street-side vendors – sabzi mandis – with their huge carts displaying arrays of vegetables and fruits. “Bhaiya aadha kilo tamatar ka kitna hua?” which translates to “Brother, how much does half a kilogram of tomatoes cost? If you were good at bargaining, chances were you would come home with a good haul.

If you were lost in a supermarket back home or were unable to find an item of your choice, immediate help would be assured. You could ask a fellow shopper – “Excuse me, do you know where the paneer section is?” – and in all probability they would know. To top this, you would always have an over-eager shop assistant hovering over you at any store.

In my case, my parents have kept up with the times and transitioned to online shopping. My working mother orders almost everything, including perishables, from Big Basket – an online grocery shopping platform in India. To me this translated to lesser errands and greater screen time.

Fast-forward to my foray into adulthood where the mere thought of walking into Countdown, the local NZ supermarket, flooded me with anxiety. I had to forgo the comfort of mandis to further my research endeavour in a first-world country. In the months leading up to my departure, I had YouTubed tutorials for using self-checkout machines. My worst case scenarios featured shoppers in queue, impatiently watching me fumble with the options – I imagined there to be several – on these machines and flustered cashiers giving up on me as I struggled to swipe my card. Grocery shopping, in my head, appeared to be an intimidating activity. Whilst online shopping was an option, the overall cost including the delivery overheads would easily deplete a poor student of their savings over time.

Whilst my worst fears did not thankfully manifest, I did have a rough time navigating through the aisles. Common sense deserted me and instead of noticing the information displayed for each aisle, I ran around like a headless chicken, desperately looking for the items on my grocery list. Towards the end I was almost in tears as all that remained on my list were paneer and frozen peas. It seemed as though the staff had been swallowed by this gargantuan supermarket – it took me over twenty minutes to locate an assistant! The rest of my stint at Countdown went down without any further incident. I sensibly stayed away from the self-checkout machines, and tried to appear relaxed before the cashier who was quite friendly. Finally, I clumsily packed my purchases in a bag and raced out of the doors.

Fortunately, I had bounced back by the next round of grocery shopping. Armed with a more efficient list, I marched confidently through the aisles of Countdown – which seemed a tad familiar – keeping my eyes peeled for the ingredients I required. At the end of it, I casually walked over to the self-checkout machine and breezed through the whole process. It wasn’t as complicated as I thought it would be. The words that reassured me throughout this trip were – as Ford Prefect had put it – don’t panic.

A is for Auckland

Auckland. Five years ago, if you had told me that I’d be pursuing my doctoral studies in an island country that is conveniently neglected in world maps owing to its negligible land size, I would have scoffed at you. Laughed in disbelief if anything. But disbelief is what I felt when I first walked the streets of this city alone, after having wallowed in homesickness and the anxiety of having being left to fend for myself in a new city. The pandemic has been a cherry on the cake. That I have managed to live alone in this city – that seems more like home to me than home back in India – for over a year with a novel virus on a rampage seems surreal. These were dreams, wishful thoughts – not the virus of course – circa 2016. But the Universe is a wondrous entity. And you may laugh, but I seriously believe in it.

Since over a year, I have been gradually discovering and savoring the bittersweet joys of adulthood, something that has come to me quite late in life (as I’d like to think) as many things have in the past. I have taken my time to arrive here, and I don’t regret it. The transition from a comfortable home life to one that involves self-discipline and independence wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. During my last in-person session with my therapist, I recall voicing the fact that my mind was a blank slate with regards to moving to New Zealand. It had been too overwhelming to imagine and account for worst-case scenarios in a place where I couldn’t visualize my life yet. But it worked out for me eventually, bit by bit, like the pieces of a puzzle that fall into place, and for that I am infinitely grateful.

What I love about Auckland is its laid-back, cheery vibe. While it is harder – in general – to find friends here, I have been blessed with a sweet circle that has been a constant source of solace to me during these rough times. I had visited New Zealand back in 2018, during a family vacation, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how the place kept calling out to me. I remember visiting the University of Auckland – it is where I study I now – and being in awe of the place. Undulating roads, a chill breeze, a beautiful green park with blooms in season, students in chic winter-wear, and the smell of fresh caffeine pervading the air – these are my memories of that evening.

There is a park we visited back then, when my parents, sister and I clicked selfies under a beautiful tree next to a fountain. The April sun was kind to us whilst a chill breeze fanned our faces. Fast forward to last year, my lovely friend and now flatmate helped me find that park with the very same tree, courtesy Google Maps. We clicked pictures again and contrasted them with those clicked two years prior. I felt an absurd joy in recreating those moments.

One of my favourite haunts in the city is the waterfront near the Ferry Building. It was and continues to be my refuge on days I feel low, and my happy place on good days. I have always had a soft corner for the sea. As fortune would have it, as of December 2020, I have been living in an apartment rental that faces the peaceful waterfront. To sip on hot coffee while gazing out at the still waters dotted occasionally with yachts is a quiet joy in itself.

I could probably write endlessly about the joy and satisfaction I have experienced while exploring this city so far. The strongest emotion I have felt after having adjusted to my new home is that of contentment despite the chaos around me. The government works painstakingly to ensure normalcy in the country while a pandemic rages across the rest of the globe. Mentally, it has been years since I have felt as grounded in the present as I do when I walk the streets of Auckland city. I take time to observe the architecture, the lights, the sounds and the smells that make this city. I wake up each morning to be greeted by the majestic Sky Tower which is visible from my balcony.


I’ve come to realize that home is a feeling. New homes can be created again in new countries amidst new found company and friends who care. After having moved here, the constant feeling of incompetency has gradually vanished. I am confident. I like myself a lot. And to say that I’m proud of myself is an understatement.

I won an Award!

So I should have posted this months ago but time is something that has slipped away faster than usual, lately.  My increased work-load and the mayhem of temporarily moving to another apartment (since our place will be getting revamped over the next few months) has barely given me time to blog. Anyway, enough of the prelude…let me dive straight into this –
wp-1493322548776

*drum roll* !!!!!!

So the rules are as follows

1. Add the award logo in your post

– Yup done that.

2. List all the rules.

– Okay this one’s pretty obvious.

3. Thank whoever nominated you and leave a link to their blog.

– Thank you Outside Perception for nominating me for the Mystery Blogger Award! It was quite unexpected to be honest.

4. Tell your readers three things about yourself

– I’ll mention stuff that I haven’t blogged about, yet. Plus, I don’t know if everyone who knows me personally is aware of this so here goes –

One – I do dabble in poetry and short stories occasionally, but I’m conscious of posting them on a social platform. I neither indulge in metaphors nor adhere to the rules of poetry writing. I think my skills definitely need some polishing.

Two – I love dancing and watching good choreographies. But then again, I’m really self- conscious whilst dancing before an audience. I don’t know if I’m good at it.

Three – I obsess over neat handwriting. I tend to have a good opinion of those who can write neatly and legibly.

5. Nominate readers and notify them.

I can’t nominate OP again but this is a good opportunity to mention some great blogs I stumbled upon during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. I hereby nominate

Simply Marquessa – Hands down, her theme won my heart. Marquessa’s theme “Hawaii” was based on Kate, the protagonist and her journey towards self-discovery post a fatal diagnosis. What appealed to me most about Marquessa’s style of writing was its lucidity and the elements of Hawaii cleverly stitched in the plot.

A few drops of ink – Cynthia’s theme “When Words make our Worlds” was an absolute delight to read. I have added quite a few non-English words  that don’t have an English equivalent to my arsenal. 100 points for an innovative and informative theme!

Milly’s Guide – Lauren’s theme was about mental health, and I found her posts to be comforting on days I felt gloomy and low. Thank you, Lauren.

A Journey to Courageous Living –  Andrea took the bold step of facing her fears, this April. I loved her theme for its individuality and positivity. More power to you, Andi!

My Random Ramblings    – Tiny tales that were lucid and impressive. Kudos to Shweta!

Keith’s ramblings – Light-hearted, quirky and endearing, Keith’s spin on “Amble Bay” made me feel as though I was a part of this quaint, coastal village with its diverse characters.

6. Link back to the creator of the award.

Thank you Okoto Oke Enigma! Awards are an impetus to writing stuff that has the power to connect with people.

7. Ask your nominees any 5 random questions of your choice!

Here’s what Outside Perception asked me

Tell us about something that you used to believe only to find out it was incorrect?
I used to believe that E.T. was real. Yep, I have a strange fascination for aliens.

If given the choice between Cake or Death… what would it be?
Cake of course! No two ways about that.

What was your imaginary friends name and what special skills did they have?
My imaginary friend was Rahul, except he was pretty normal. Rahul was my favourite patient when I played “Doctor Doctor” with my doctor set toys!

What is your all time most watched movie?
Queen
by Vikas Bahl, starring Kangana Ranaut. I have watched this movie a hundred thousand times and I know all the dialogues by heart!

When you have downtime… (Laugh.. yah I know) Ok, If you ever had downtime… What would you do? 
First of, I’m not too well-versed with American slang..so um I am assuming downtime refers to free time? Oops. So whenever I unwind, I usually play my guitar or read a book. Or watch canine videos on Instagram.

And that’s a wrap!

Here are some questions for my nominees

  • What’s the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
  • Which songs feature in your “Guilty Pleasures” play list?
  • What is that one weird thing you are afraid of?
  • You are forced to spend a whole day with that one person you can’t tolerate. How will you spend it productively without losing your cool?
  • You have been asked to direct your favourite actor. Who will it be and what will be the plot-line?

I look forward to your response!

Cheers!

Nothing

Dear Diary,

Life can be a sadist. Two months ago, I was confident about securing a good job in my field in spite of having been rejected by a bunch of recruiters. I heeded all advice given to me about life as a fresh graduate, about how employers can be assholes and how things take their own course in the ‘real world’. Now, I don’t give a shit. There’s no motivation. Nothing seems to be working. I lost a great position at the university to a batch mate, a good pay and all that jazz. Moreover, the professor at NCL seems to have withdrawn the position for a project fellow; another opportunity I was counting on. Wait, there’s more. Today, Amma’s friend urged me to apply as a freelance science writer in a  well-known company. After having entered my details in an online form, I was directed to a test that lasted for forty mins. I received the results immediately. I opened it eagerly only to be greeted by disappointment, once again.

Though I am surrounded by positive people, I am having a hard time believing them. There’s the motherly pep talk from Amma’s end, which usually ends with “something good is awaiting me in the near future.”  Amma, I appreciate your concern but sometimes the uncertainty can be overwhelming. My boyfriend is great, really, but his idea of consoling involves being blunt. “There’s a right time for everything. Maybe, your friend had the luck.” True. He did. “You gotta stop helping people out. Get your shit sorted. Stop sharing career-related information among your friends. No one cares about your interests. Just stop being so nice all the time and focus on yourself.” Okay, being selfish would do more good than harm in this case, except I find it hard to say no or refuse favors.

I haven’t been wasting time. I balance my time between my so-called extended-dissertation and my close-knit social circle. I have enrolled for online classes that will coach me for the National Eligibility Exam (NET). I meditate. I get drunk occasionally. I give makeovers to my friends. I play the guitar. I read (sometimes). But, I also write mails to recruiters, hoping they’d reply but knowing that’s a long shot. There are times I crib to a friend who sails the same boat. Misery does love company.

“I’m feeling like shit dude. My friend got the job I wanted.”

“Fuck.”

“I don’t have the motivation to do stuff. No one cares in this real world. You need references. You need placements. You’re stuck as a fresher.”

“This all like a test you know for adulthood..it’s full of these waiting periods and anticipation. You’re going to be fine. I know saying it isn’t helping you right now. But you still need to know.”

I miss college. I miss not worrying about stuff like this. I miss being carefree. Adulthood is a mess.

I can’t wait for this phase to end. I hope it’s a damn phase. I hope I’m worth it.

Ambiguity

Dear Diary,

I have begun to hate Facebook. But I don’t find myself deactivating or deleting my account. On one hand I detest scrolling through my home feed, browsing though pictures of my friends’ holidaying in the UK,  or attending Coldplay concerts, or eating exotic food, or experiencing the ultimate student life in Ivy League universities, and so on and so forth. On the other, a part of me fervently wishes my life were half as interesting as theirs.

As you may have already guessed from my tone, I am clearly not in the best of spirits. Unemployment has never been a part of my vocabulary before this. Until now I didn’t know it meant applying in tons of companies or startups only to receive poorly worded mails in response to a polite cover letter and a good CV. I didn’t know grades would be the least of all my concerns, in spite of having toiled for two years to learn the ropes of computational biology. I didn’t know being disciplined in the absence of a definite routine would be this hard. I didn’t know I would begin to dread staying at home alone with my laptop for company. I didn’t know it meant downing endless cups of coffee to keep myself rejuvenated. I didn’t know it meant writing endless to-do lists daily to convince myself that I have work to do, only to end up not achieving half the tasks listed in my pocket diary. Why has my life come to a standstill? Why has it come to feeling so mediocre in spite of having pushed myself to give my best all these years? Competition is the worst thing to deal with, doubled with anxiety.

Yesterday I forced myself to come up with a game plan for my future. A part of me truly wishes to pursue research in academia, which translates into years of commitment and independent work. It also means living for extended periods away from family and my boyfriend. It means stress yet it spells satisfaction.  Am I ready for that? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I have always been an over-cautious kid. I hate taking risks. I have never lived away from home. It’s the scariest thought ever.

I want to be independent. I want to move out, yet be able to visit home regularly. As much as going abroad sounds exciting, I love the comfort of my country. Somehow, it has always been a challenge to voice my opinions to most of my peers, who are currently in pursuit of a life abroad. That being said, there are a thousand things wrong about our country with “mediocre” and “poor” being appropriate adjectives to describe its state of affairs. But what if I want to stay here in spite of all that? What if my relationship matters equally? Attachment to family seems to be too feeble a reason to defend my argument. I can’t have the best of both worlds. I know my words are conflicting. It’s a mere reflection of my thoughts.

The past few months of ambiguity have been tolerable only because of Karthik. We have been together for two years now. We have managed to survive the distance that separates whenever he’s off sailing. Sometimes, it seems unreal. I find myself wondering how someone could sincerely love me in spite of my temper, impatience and selfishness, to say the least. It’s true that I do occasionally suffer from bouts of low self-esteem, but his affection astonishes me. “Of course you take me for granted!” he jokes, which is true for the most part. But I feel lucky. We may be jerks to each other at times, but I cherish every second I get to spend with him.

I hope this phase passes soon. Trying to remain positive requires effort. Negativity is easy to fathom. I will write again soon, but that’s all for now.

A letter to a stranger

I don’t know this girl. All I know is that she is dealing with her grandfather’s death and that struck a chord.

I have never spoken to anyone about the way I dealt with Thatha’s loss. And I don’t think I can ever elaborate on that.

This is not meant to make one sad.

Dear @dustyalmirah,

I hope this helps you.

Understanding a grandparent’s loss isn’t easy. I say understand and not deal because when Thatha died, I dealt with it and the entire world tried to understand my attempts at dealing with it.

Three years post his death, it requires hours, probably days of concentrated effort to rewind and replay all those moments I spent with him (and took for granted), as compared to the time when he was around. Why is it such a task? On hearing the diagnosis, a part of him died, and the rest died within my mind because Stage-4 cancer eats one up. And it ate him from within that year, leaving behind a man who became a shadow of what he had been. Death isn’t so terrible. I’ll you what is worse – it’s the process of watching your most favorite person suffer and trying to relive those times when he was up at 6 AM enjoying his morning dose of filter coffee, or teaching you Math. So you rewind, pause, replay. The memories give you solace, yet grief punches your stomach when you come back to reality. You don’t realize the ordeal when you’re in it because Thatha’s pain becomes routine for you, but in retrospect you realize that you had indeed survived a nightmare come true.

When it’s over, a part of you experiences crushing relief and the rest feels like a void. It’s not like the movies where the grief-stricken beat their heads and loll on the floor. Instead, you sit staring blankly at the still figure which was once your grandfather. Relatives waft in and out, exchange hugs, shed tears, touch his feet and bow their heads. Occasionally a few questions pop in your head – “So this is it? Thatha has gone to the other side? Is this happening? Why doesn’t it feel like a blow? Why am I not sobbing?”

The point is there was nothing left to sink in. All that was required to sink in was the existence of his terminal illness and death was just the end of it. The anger and the barrage of questions to God about the unfairness of the whole goddamn situation lasted while he did. The Thatha I once knew, became a memory ever since and not after he left us physically.

My mother asked me if I had cried for Thatha. I hated the question itself. Tears are personal, and this is something I didn’t wish to share, even with her. I hate it when family members discuss his death with a sense of pity. No one chooses their death. Thatha was a strong man and was resilient in spite of all the torture he dealt with in his final days.

I don’t know if I miss my grandfather. Maybe I do, because there are times I wish could go visit him in Bombay and give him company whilst he reads a novel. It’s not like I have forgotten him, but the memories that come easily to me are those of his mannerisms and quirky catchphrases. When I think of Thatha, I also think of Calculus, filter coffee and fried pomfret, as strange as it sounds. There’s no sadness associated with his absence but I do get wistful (sometimes) remembering the part of my childhood that died with him. I don’t feel his loss, instead I have learnt to accept that he isn’t with us anymore.

I am a lucky girl. A fortunate grandchild to have been loved unconditionally by a man who was judged and likewise feared by many in my family. I knew a side of him that only a handful knew. It’s only now that I have come to terms with the phrase time heals.

I hope the going gets easy for you.

Smile

It is as quiet and as empty as I wanted it to be.

No more questions,
No more impatience,
No more frowning,
Or incoherence,
At last.

“Now then, get up, you are alright,” I said,

When you refused to budge.
Crease lines etched across your forehead, deepening,
No smile, no twinkle,
Drooping cheeks and anxious eyes,
Yet, I tried.

“It’s your favourite movie!”,

“Look at his face, crinkled up comically!”,
 Smile!
 But you didn’t.

“Look at these pictures,”

“That’s me in your arms, gurgling with laughter.”
And then I could see,
A hint of a smile, maybe.

Worry shouldn’t be your best friend,
Medicines won’t cheer you up.
Look at me, and look at her, and him,
And all your favourite things,
That make you gladsome,
That make you smile.
Anger couldn’t hide itself.
This was all wrong.
Spill your secrets,
The darkest ones,
Why couldn’t you?
All I wanted was you to be alright.
I stamped upon the gloom,
That caught up with the days,            
Flying past swiftly,
Drowning myself in a world of make believe,
With all things happy and wonderful,
Catchy riffs, puppy love, and words.
Laugh, laugh, laugh!
Pretty smile that lights up your eyes.
Ask, ask, ask!
Those questions, silly and stupid
Else this isn’t you.

But, they grew dimmer, your eyes.
Feeble tones to your voice,
Breathing harder to survive.
Still, I forced myself,
To make you smile.
I could stamp no more after a point.
I asked Him hence,
To ease you,
To make you smile.
A miracle maybe,
“Heal her!”I pleaded.
“Only one way,” He said.

Bittersweet it tasted,

Plunged sharp into the folds of my skin,
He called it Pain.

You didn’t say bye,
But you did.
They said you didn’t smile,
But you did.
I know,
I can see it in my mind’s eye,
That beautiful smile that lights up your eyes.

My stint at poetry writing, that I dedicate to Paati, my wonderful grandmother.

R.I.P