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.